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Critical Access Hospitals Strive to Improve Outcomes in MT

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, April 24, 2013

Mergers and acquisitions are rampant in healthcare these days as large health systems get larger and use their size and market share to improve efficiencies, coordinate care, reduce costs, and leverage terms with vendors and insurers.

At the other end of the spectrum are critical access hospitals. These tiny, isolated providers by their mission and geography aren't able to tap into the advantages of this bigger-is-better delivery model. So they improvise.

In Montana, rural providers are in the second year of a three-year pilot project that eventually aspires to provide each of the Big Sky State's 48 critical access hospitals with a "better health improvement specialist." Funded by a $10.5 million Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation Grant, these specialists will coordinate and improve post-discharge care plans, identify operational inefficiencies, and use data that they collect to proactively target potential health issues to reduce readmissions and emergency department visits.

"We are a support mechanism for these critical access hospitals to identify where failure modes are happening within the healthcare delivery system in their system and their relationships with regional partners," says Denyse Traeder, director of the Frontier Medicine Better Health Partnership, which is coordinating the project.

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