Don Wood, Director, Utah Office of Primary Care and Rural Health

What are the most important things you are working on?
The most important things we are working on right now are implementing two new state loan repayment programs for providers, demonstrating success in two primary care grant programs, providing accurate and meaningful technical assistance, and hosting a meaningful and value laden rural hospital administrators summit.

What is the biggest challenge facing SORH leaders today?
The biggest challenge facing SORH leaders today (at least in our state) is funding and data. It is difficult to keep up to date on all of the rural health care changes. We could do a lot more and be more effective with increased funding and more data, including more timely analysis of data already being collected.

What characteristic should every SORH leader possess?
One characteristic I believe every SORH leader should possess is excellent communication skills – especially listening skill. Every single issue you deal with must begin with a dialogue. As a leader you have to be able to listen attentively, interpret accurately what you are hearing, and then articulate clearly your positions or solutions.

What is something great about rural health in your state?
There are 3 great things about rural health in our state:

1) We have a very talented and dedicated staff in our Office of Primary Care and Rural Health. It is a pleasure to work with individuals who get rural health and are motivated to do all they can to improve rural healthcare in every way possible. It is also a blessing to have an administration that supports our office and our efforts. They are knowledgeable and experienced in rural healthcare to a very exceptional degree. It is exciting to work in an environment that understands and supports your efforts and priorities.
2) Recognizing great work of our provider agencies and the accomplishments of their efforts. Utah has submitted applications for great works of our CAH hospitals to the National Rural Health Resource Center and their CAH Recognition program.  We have had a hospital selected in each of the first five competitions and are proud of their efforts and the recognition that followed their efforts. Additionally two more of our CAH hospitals were recognized this past year at the NRHA CAH conference S Top 20 Best practice Recipients in the areas of Patient Satisfaction Reporting and Financial Stability. Also, all of our hospitals are doing great work with HCAHPS, MBQIP, and ICD-10, which they have put a great deal of effort in over the past two years.
3) And the greatest thing about rural in our state is the collaborative relationships we have with our hospitals and clinics, organizations such as our state hospital association, our primary care association, our state rural health association, our local health departments, and many other partners and state agencies who all work with us to improve health care in rural and frontier Utah. It is refreshing to always deal with the positive attitudes and willingness to work together for the greater good.