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Rural Health Funding Gets Boost via Provider Partnerships

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, July 20, 2011

If the road to economic viability, meaningful use, and accountable care organizations is a rocky one for most healthcare facilities, it’s perhaps even bumpier for rural ones. That’s why the Colorado Rural Health Center (CRHC) has created the “Partnership Program,” which will allow larger organizations to invest in a fund that will be used to provide free support services to small, rural health facilities.

“We have a lot of programs and services that we don’t have grant funding to be able to provide for no cost,” Cari Fouts, director of communication and development at CRHC, said in an interview. These services include helping rural health clinics improve their billing and coding practices, assessing and improving business practices; and helping with quality improvement and patient safety activities.

Even though CRHC provides such services throughout the state, rural facilities often can’t afford to pay for the help and CRHC hasn’t been able to provide it for free; that’s where the Partnership Program funding comes in.

“This partnership is going to allow us to be able to provide those services and technical assistance out into the rural communities,” Fouts said.

In all, there are 29 critical access hospitals in Colorado, plus nine additional rural hospitals, and 50 certified rural health clinics. In other words, there are a lot of facilities that might need help. Although eventually the program will have an application process, CRHC will use its current field work start by identifying facilities in need.

The first “Partner” in the program is Englewood, CO-based Centura Health, Colorado’s largest healthcare provider with 13 hospitals, several clinics, and other programs, including rural health facilities, which span the roughly 104,000-square-mile state. Plus, they have rural health facilities themselves. According to Bob Wallace, Centura Health’s service line director for outreach health, the organization has contributed $25,000 to the fund for 2011.

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