John Packham is the flex coordinator for the Nevada SORH. He also serves on the national TASC Advisory Committee and is a Region D Rep and Flex Committee co-chair for NOSORH.
How is your SORH different than other SORHs?
Being university-based, we are enmeshed within a network of researchers and others who do outreach and education on health-related matters. It’s great to be with a mix of colleagues. I think it’s important for people to know that university-based SORHs are part of state government. For example, higher education in Nevada recently was hit by crises and we’ve been affected too. But it’s a collegial environment that I love–and it gives me the opportunity to teach and advise students. I have overseen MPH interns who are helping us with projects in critical access hospitals (CAHs) and rural communities in Nevada. I get to teach a course whenever my schedule allows.
What do you do as a flex coordinator to improve health care in your state?
I have a great job because I get to split my time among various research and technical assistance activities, partnered with Nevada Rural Hospital Partners (NRHP), our state rural hospital association. I feel that my work as flex coordinator keeps me grounded, because it gets me into communities and hospitals where I work on workforce issues, and do data analysis and community health care needs assessments. And I get to help address some of the serious health issues in Nevada right now–like access barriers, health workforce development and understanding the changing health needs of rural communities. Eleven CAHs we work with are, on average, 45 miles from nearest incorporated town and 105 miles from a tertiary hospital. The hospital I worked with on a community-needs assessment recently is 180 miles from my office. Most of the rural areas in Nevada meet the definition of frontier. The Internet and video have broken down some of those barriers, but you’re still a long way from everything.
We have some pretty impressive yet straightforward performance improvement tools, including the capacity to do revenue cycle assessments and improvement, working with NRHP. There’s been a nice coordination of expertise between us. They help us meet the goals and objectives of multiple grant programs.
I hope that my increasing involvement in national boards and committees will provide opportunities for me to share what’s working in Nevada, and to learn from other national rural health leaders in the process.