Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Partnering in Rural Areas

Collaborative efforts can be a positive factor enabling rural communities to have access to high quality healthcare services as reported in April’s HRSA report. The report “Effective Collaboration between Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) and Federally Qualified Health Centers” (FQHC) was published by the Office of Rural Health Policy and pointed out many reasons as to why CAH’s and FQHC’s need to develop collaborative efforts in rural communities.

One major benefit would be to improve health information technology systems to avoid the need for duplicating equipment between ambulatory and inpatient care, produce savings on information technology staff, plus laboratory and radiology needs could be met by one hospital operated laboratory and radiology department. However, according to the report studies have shown that documented successful collaboration in rural communities appears to be the exception rather than the rule.

To meet the need for collaborative efforts to serve rural communities, several successful new collaborative programs involving health technologies were announced at the American Telemedicine Association International Meeting and Exhibition held in San Antonio this week.

Royal Philips Electronics is expanding access to critical care support in rural communities with their eICU program available from Philips VISICU. Several hospitals are partnering with eICU service providers to increase their patient’s access to critical care specialists in their local communities.

The hospitals and their partnering efforts include Grinnell Regional Medical Center in Grinnell Iowa collaborating with the Mercy Health Network in Des Moines, Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center in Kodiak Alaska working with Providence Alaska Medical Center in Alaska, and Union Hospital in Clinton Indiana working as partners with Advanced ICU Care in St. Louis.

Another partnership consisting of three academic centers working together to establish a pilot program enables the residents of rural Florida communities experiencing hypertension to use IDEAL LIFE’s wireless remote health monitoring system. This system requires no training or installation and transmits educational and motivational messages directly to the user so that they are able to effectively manage their high blood pressure. This program is operating under the direction of the Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement (CREATE) and was funded by NIH’s National Institute on Aging.

“IDEAL LIFE was selected for this program because it is the most flexible, affordable, and user friendly remote monitoring system available,” according to Sara Czaha, PH.D, Co-director of the University of Miami’s Center on Aging, one of the three academic centers participating in the CREATE Program.

Go to to download HRSA’s report. For more information on the collaborative effort at Philips go to and for information on the IDEAL LIFE project go to