Corporate sponsors are not only an important resource for funding for the mission of NOSORH, they are experts in rural health and often partners to the State Offices of Rural Health.  This important work will be featured in a series of articles over the next few months.

For over a decade, State Offices of Rural Health have committed significant time and resources toward developing statewide Critical Access Hospital performance improvement networks.  Likewise for over a decade Stroudwater Associates has supported the work of NOSORH and State Offices of Rural Health. . The result of this effort and focus has been the formation of mature, effective networks that enable CAHs to learn from one another, share performance data and collaborate on improvement projects.

“Stroudwater is proud to support the mission and goals of the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health.  In a rapidly changing environment with increasingly vulnerable rural providers and communities, we feel it is essential that organizations such as NOSORH continue to play a central, vital role in coordinating resources for state partners, hospitals, clinics and providers,” says Gregory Wolf, Principal with Stroudwater Associates.

Stroudwater Associates is a private healthcare consulting firm with corporate offices in Portland, Maine, Atlanta, Georgia, and Nashville, Tennessee, and experience working in all 50 states.  Their Rural Team is passionate about the health of rural people and places. They tout their belief in relationship development, collaborative strategies, and commitment to personal learning and growth; with roughly half of their national practice committed to rural provider organizations.

Stroudwater supports nearly a dozen State Offices of Rural Health on their statewide performance improvement activities. Two SORH who recently shared their work on convening rural hospital networks that have a common partnership with Stroudwater Associates are the New York and Massachusetts Flex Programs.

In New York State, the Flex grant provides funding for a comprehensive performance improvement network that integrates Quality and Financial benchmarking, technical assistance and rapid-cycle projects for all of the state’s 19 CAHs. Every quarter the CEOs, CFOs and Quality Improvement Directors from every CAH across the state meet for a one-day Improvement Summit where market trends and updates are shared, state and national benchmarks are analyzed, and breakout sessions for collaborative improvement projects are convened. The New York SORH and Stroudwater partner on agenda development, meeting facilitation and methods for spreading the findings generated from the rapid-cycle project management process, the cornerstone of the Learning and Action Network.  Karen Madden, the SORH Director and past NOSORH President, has witnessed the evolution of the CAH network: “Over the past several years we’ve seen increased involvement from all of our CAHs where we have almost 100% participation at every meeting from multiple managers from every hospital. But the most important advance for us has been the work that happens between our meetings. With the full implementation of the Learning and Action Network, the CAHs now work on collaborative improvement plans throughout the year and use the network meetings to learn from one another and share their successes. The level of engagement, accountability and improvement from our CAHs has been truly transformational.”

In Massachusetts, the Office of Rural Health faces a unique set of opportunities and challenges. The Commonwealth has a relatively small number of rural hospitals, most of those facilities are owned by large urban health systems, and two of the CAHs are located on islands. How does the Massachusetts SORH navigate this complex environment?  “Our team has to be creative, flexible and highly collaborative,” states Cathleen McElligott, the SORH Director. “When we do our CAH network planning and consensus building with CEOs it’s essential that our Flex program activities factor in geography, hospital ownership and our state’s dynamic health reform environment. Stroudwater plays a key role in that process because they offer not just rural expertise, but also a higher level of credibility and knowledge to help our CAHs define and communicate the strategic relevance of our network activities to the health system leadership.”  Like their counterparts in New York, the Massachusetts CAHs meet for full-day Improvement Summits throughout the year to review comparative analytics, address strategic and operational priorities and collaborate on rapid-cycle improvement activities.


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