What I’m working on right now: I am currently quite involved with the Flex Supplemental funding. We have 9 hospitals participating, which is almost like having a second Flex program!
What I’m currently reading: If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? By: Alan Alda
Favorite thing about working at a SORH: There are no two days just alike. Each day is a new adventure! I appreciate the freedom to think outside of the box.
Secret talent: I bake some pretty good biscuits!
Favorite quote: “The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is to not train them and keep them.”
People would be surprised if they knew: I am a licensed and registered Radiologic Technologist.
3 great things about rural health in Kentucky:
1. Kentucky has an established cross-sector network of rural focused individuals who really understand rural.
2. There is a strong sense of camaraderie among rural health agencies.
3. The fact that our SORH is physically located in a rural community says
My Three Goals for 2015:
What is on your desk right now that you want/need to read?
The State Auditor’s Special Report on the Financial Strength of Kentucky’s Rural Hospitals
What do you do when you are not working?
Aside from my lengthy daily commute, I remain very involved with my family and in our community’s local school (124 kiddos grades K-8). My wife and I also recently accepted an appointment to serve as Youth Pastors at our church.
What is the most important thing you are working on right now?
In January, we launched the first edition of our new magazine called The Bridge: Kentucky’s Connection to Rural Health Issues. This consumed a lot of energy and focus, but it has been a huge success. This quarterly publication will focus on rural health issues and topics pertaining to the Commonwealth, while spotlighting individuals and programs that exemplify innovation or excellence in Kentucky’s rural health landscape. The first edition of The Bridge is funded in part by federal HRSA Primary Care Office grant funds awarded through the Kentucky Primary Care Office. We hope The Bridge will be used as a tool to provide key information to decision-makers and highlight best practices throughout the state.
What inspires you and excites you most about working for a SORH?
Every day is a new challenge, and no two days are alike. I live in the most rural area of the state, so I live and breathe these issues. With all the changes, it is almost overwhelming at times. It is sometimes hard to see where your attention needs to be in that day. I like to dig deep, but it difficult with just 5 staff. However, this stimulates innovative and requires us to collaborate with others and not be so caught up in own world.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a SORH leader?
I like to surround myself with rural-minded people. You become who you surround yourself with. When you serve on committees and boards, you develop like minds.
How did you get to where you are now? (What positions, schooling, bumps along the road, etc., led you here?)
I worked as a pharmacy tech in school. By trade, I am a registered rad tech. I began working in clinics and hospitals. I specialized in mobile MRI services and saw real rural healthcare. I went back to school to change over to an administration mindset. Next, I developed a career pathways grant program at a community college and then gained employment with a large rural FQHC in the state. I got more involved in the grants side of things – black lung, etc., and conducted an EHR implementation for 30 providers until Jan 2013.
What skill sets do you think SORH staff need—and how did you achieve them? (And what skill sets are you looking to improve or expand upon next year?)
I am big on multi-tasking. You need to be able to balance multiple projects at one time and think outside the box. They need the freedom to openly share ideas, whether we implement or not.
How much do you unplug from the office? What do you do to unplug (and unwind)?
I unplug during my 13 hours I commute each week. I am also out on the road a lot visiting the state, so I listen to great music. I am also very active in community, my church and daughter’s community school.
What are three great things about rural health in your state? What are the current challenges?
Medicaid expansion has been positive. The early adopters have had great successes. We have seen a big increase, but the sustainability is troublesome to me.
Lots of communities have embraced Smoke Free to protect employees from second hand smoke.
We all get along and have a sense of community. People work together.
What are three (life or work) lessons you would share?
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a SORH leader? Maybe some one who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
Larry Allen – former director at SORH – took me in and really served as a mentor and still stays in contact. He encouraged me to focus on my strengths and challenged me to reach beyond my comfort zone.
The Kentucky Office of Rural Health (KORH) is helping get the word out about the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange (KHBE), the state-run health insurance program, by helping facilitate information sessions in different regions of the state.
The sessions are geared toward health care providers, administrators, boards of directors, community agencies, coalitions, navigators, mid-level managers, front-line staff and other health care workers. “Our partners wanted more community-type events, so we thought, if they’re willing to put forth the effort, we’re going to give it a shot,” said Kayla Combs, KORH rural project manager. “The people working within the exchange have been wonderful to work with. Since they have been so willing to help we
decided to do a roadshow of sorts.”
The sessions have featured KHBE leaders and staff doing a two-hour presentation, with the first half outlining details of the exchange, followed by a question and answer session. Two sessions have been held so far. The first session, held at the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard, where KORH is located, had 100+ attendees, including some that joined in over iTV. The second was held in Paducah, in the western part of the state, and had around 85 attendees. KORH staff has been on hand at the
sessions to register participants and help facilitate.
Although Kentucky has been one of the most successful states in signing up people for insurance, with more than 10 percent of its estimated 640,000 uninsured signed up by the end of November (an average of 1,000 a day), Combs said that she has been surprised that many providers have been unaware of KHBE, its kynect web site, and how it works. “In smaller practices, the providers are so busy that it just crept up on them, so this educates them on the basics,” she said.
KORH Director Ernie Scott attributes the success of the sessions to “a simplified marketing strategy, as well as great partnering organizations.” KORH has sent out invitations to all area healthcare providers and rural stakeholders. The one-page flyer for the sessions is simple, with meeting information, the kynect logo at the top and a list of sponsors at the bottom. “We encourage everyone to forward it on and distribute it within their communities,” Scott said. “But, locally, we’re finding that email is not the only option.” KORH has been faxing the flyer to doctors’ offices. “Doctors in smaller practices are so busy, they otherwise miss a lot of electronic communications,” he explained.
The next session, planned for January 16th in Morehead, KY, will be the first to offer an additional evening session for the general population. “We’ve been putting out local ads, putting flyers in beauty shops, any place where folks who would benefit can see them,” Scott said. “And kynectors (Kentucky patient navigators) will be available to sign people up on the spot.”
Both Combs and Scott feel an urgency to assist and educate rural providers in getting the uninsured signed up for coverage. Scott said that a local hospital chain recently sent out notice that it will “no longer see patients for non-emergency services next year since everyone is expected to have some form of insurance, ‘consistent with the Affordable Care Act’. “If this hospital takes a stand, others will certainly follow,” he said.