Virginia Rural Health Association - Weekly Update
VRHA Weekly Update
In this Issue  September 12, 2016

VRHA News Virginia News National News Mark your calendar
Funding Opportunities

Thanks to our Platinum Sponsor!

There are still a few sponsor and exhibit slots available at the VRHA conference,
click here to learn more!



Billing & Coding

In conjunction with the Annual Conference, VRHA will be hosting the Rural Health Coding & Billing Specialist (RH-CBS) Training and Certification Prep Class.  This class is designed for clinical personnel, coders, billers, EHR professionals, facility and financial managers that work in Rural Hospitals and/or Rural Health Clinics. The Billing & Coding Workshop will be held October 18 & 19 in Abingdon in the same location as the Annual Conference.  

Click here for details and registration for the Billing & Coding Workshop, or click the logo to the right for information about the Annual Conference.

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VRHA Annual Conference
Abingdon, VA
October 19 & 20

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Deadline Approaching!

Registration fees for the VRHA Annual Conference are $200 for Members and $260 for the general public. 

NOTE:  This prices will increase as we get closer to the conference.  Starting September 19th, member rate will be $230; non-member $275. Get your registration in early and save! 

  • For registration, click here.
  • VRHA Student Members are eligible for the student rate of $100 for the full event or $75 for the first day and $30 for the second
  • Some entities will be eligible for free registration, contact Beth O'Connor for details.

DON'T FORGET: Registration for the Virginia Rural Health Telecommunications Consortium kick-off meeting is separate!  Click here for more information.

Event registration fees at all levels include 2017 VRHA membership dues.

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Another Deadline Approaching!

Lodging for the VRHA Annual Conference is available nearby at the Comfort Suites. Rooms are set aside at the discounted rate of $98/night (+ tax & fees) for the conference.

NOTE: You must reserve by September 17 to ensure a room at this rate.
To reserve your room: call (276) 698-3040 and ask for the VRHA rate.
Comfort Suites - Abingdon is located at:
1093 Ole Berry Drive  
Abingdon, VA 24210   

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Virginia News

Close the Gap

By Kay Crane - Star Tribune

While the Affordable Care Act made it possible for many to access health care, there continues to be a gap in coverage for Virginia’s working poor. These are people who are trying to work and support their families but cannot afford the high premiums set by the insurance companies.   Therefore many have to make the difficult decision to forego health coverage. The uninsured are often stereotyped as poor, jobless, and often near the end of their lives.  The reality is most are working hard, but many do struggle with both health issues and have multiple clinical issues, often behavioral health issues or social issues,  such as the lack of affordable housing, food, as well as, health care.

Fifty percent of all health care dollars are spent on five percent of the population.  Those with the lowest life expectancy incur the most health care costs. The fiscal cost of caring for the uninsured is astronomical for the hospitals, federally qualified community health centers and free clinics.  Last year alone, PATHS spent almost $2 million for uncompensated care for the uninsured.  Of PATHS 13,000 patients we served this represented 3,887 uninsured patients.  Just think of the other services and care that $2 million could provide if it wasn’t needed for the uninsured.

 The cost of caring for the uninsured also affects a community’s ability to maintain a healthy workforce, provide quality of life for its citizens, and provide preventative care which reduces health care costs for those suffering with chronic disease such as diabetes and hypertension.  Statistics paint only a part of the picture.

Read the full editorial.

NOTE: Kay Crane is the CEO of PATHS, VRHA's newest member.

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The Extremes

August Wallmeyer - Richmond Times Dispatch

The sale and use of illegal drugs is a huge problem everywhere in Virginia, and each region has its own set of challenges and opportunities. Statewide, the rate of increase in fatal drug overdoses has increased, on average, by 5.9 percent each year for the past 16 years. In parts of the Extremes (Southwest, Southside and the Eastern Shore), the rates of fatal drug overdoses are among the highest in Virginia, particularly among males aged 25-55. Since at least 2007, prescription opioids have been responsible for more than half of all fatal drug overdoses in Virginia, mostly in the far western and eastern reaches of the Extremes.

People in the Extremes areas tend, on average, to live shorter, less-healthy lives than Virginians statewide. County-by-county health rankings compiled by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sample a variety of data to measure both length of lifetimes and the quality of life.

Read the full article

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SimMan 3G

By Robby Korth -Roanoke Times

A new patient is occupying the exam rooms of a Smyth County hospital that hasn’t accepted sick people in years. The patient’s name is SimMan 3G and he has a lot of issues: He bleeds. He goes into shock. He moans in pain.
SimMan 3G is a high fidelity simulation mannequin and is the centerpiece equipment in a simulation lab for students at the Emory & Henry College School of Health Sciences Marion campus. The campus is located at the site of the old Smyth County Hospital, built in 1965, but closed for four years until 2016. Through $13.3 million in renovations, the college has not only repurposed an old building to create a learning hub, but is also helping to reinvigorate a Southwest Virginia community.
The goal of the school is to educate young people in a highly interactive and hands-on environment, as well as to provide health care to Southwest Virginia, an area that school officials say lacks health care professionals. Currently, the school offers graduate-level degrees in occupational and physical therapy and will offer a master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies next spring.

Read the full article.

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National News

Action Alert

Join NRHA’s Virtual March for Rural Hospitals on Wednesday, September 14. Call, Tweet and Facebook your members of Congress, and ask them to save rural hospitals.  Tell your member of Congress to co-sponsor H.R. 3225, the Save Rural Hospitals Act, introduced by Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA), and ask your senators to introduce a companion bill.

Seventy-six rural hospitals have closed since 2010, but if the 114th Congress acts now there is still time to save the 673 additional facilities (representing 1/3 of rural hospitals in the U.S.) that are vulnerable to closure. Rural hospitals provide essential, lifesaving local access to health care close to home for the 62 million Americans living in rural and remote communities. These hospitals serve vulnerable rural Americans that are older, sicker and poorer then their urban counterparts. Specifically, they are more likely to suffer with a chronic disease that requires monitoring and follow up care. This makes convenient, local access to care necessary to ensuring patient compliance with the services that are necessary to reduce the overall cost of care and improve the patients’ outcomes and quality of life.

Continued Medicare cuts have taken their toll, forcing far too many closures.  Thirteen rural hospitals have already closed this year. Medical deserts are appearing across rural America, leaving many of our nation’s most vulnerable populations without timely access to care.
The solution is legislation and it is time for the 114th Congress to take action.

The Save Rural Hospitals Act will stop the impending flood of rural hospital closures and provide needed access to care for rural America. It will stabilize rural hospitals by reversing the multiple across-the-board Medicare cuts that have disproportionately hurt rural hospitals and provide necessary regulatory relief.

Finally, it provides a great path forward for rural health care by creating an innovative delivery model that will ensure emergency access to care and allow hospitals the opportunity to continue to meet the outpatient care needs of their community.

Visit our Save Rural Hospitals Action Kit for more information on this important legislation.

OB-GYN Shortage

By Staci Matlock - New Mexican

San Miguel County commissioners held a moment of silence at an April meeting in remembrance of Las Vegas, N.M., resident Desiree Castillo and her unborn son, who died in a car accident in March on Interstate 25 as Castillo was returning home from a doctor’s appointment in Santa Fe.
Expectant mothers from Las Vegas and dozens of surrounding communities have had to seek care up to 100 miles away since the privately run Alta Vista Regional Hospital ended its obstetrics services March 7, citing a lack of doctors. County commissioners voted at that April meeting to form a study group to find solutions to the crisis. But more than four months later, the group hasn’t met and the OB-GYN services at Alta Vista remain shuttered.
The rural hospital’s struggles to find and retain OB-GYN specialists and other health care professionals aren’t unique. Hospitals and clinics around the U.S., especially in rural areas, are competing against each other for an increasingly limited number of obstetricians, according to a report released last week by the Pew Charitable Trust. At the same time, the number of births and the need for such doctors are expected to increase, health studies and the U.S. Census Bureau find.

Read the full article and related story from Health Leaders Media.

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Pharmacies and Readmission

By Markian Hawryluk - Bulletin

Murray's Drug is a throwback to a simpler time.  Opened in 1959 long before national drugstore chains and mail-order pharmacies dominated the prescription world, the family-owned business is still the ony place in town the 1,200 residents of Heppner can fill a prescription.  In fact, between their Heppner and Condon stores, pharmacists John and Ann Murray, and their daughter, Laurie Murray-Wood, run the only brick-and-mortar pharmacies in all of Morrow, Gilliam, Sherman and Wheeler counties.

As a result, Heppner is one of many towns across Oregon with limited access to prescription drugs.  A recent analysis from Oregon State University suggests that the lack of Pharmacy services may be boosting the rates of hospital readmissions among seniors, at great costs to both patients and the health care system. 

Rural hospitals do what they can to help patients but are often limited in how much medication they can provide at discharge.  Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Heppner has a drug room that supplies medication for inpatient or emergency room patients.  But if patients need medications not stocked by the hospital, they may need to drive an hour to Hermiston to get the prescription filled.

Read the full article.

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Inspiring Action

Access to something as simple as a doctor can be near impossible in the more rural parts of Colorado. The issue is especially pronounced along the Eastern Plains, leading state officials to embark on a new training program. The objective is to recruit and train more family practice physicians in places like Sterling, a city of about 15,000 people that’s 130 miles northeast of Denver.

A new state law aims to address the shortage. It creates an income tax credit for people who teach and train medical students who want to do family medicine. The state commission could build on that if some ideas gain support. There’s talk of a tax credit for physicians who practice in rural areas, as well as more thoughts about student loan forgiveness. 

Read the full article.

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Inadequate Care

By Keith Pemrick - Morning Consult

Medicare beneficiaries deserve to receive quality health care no matter where they live. Unfortunately, that is not the case today for hundreds of thousands of seniors in rural America. While Congress talks a big game about helping seniors on Medicare, they have failed to listen to the voices of countless beneficiaries who are at risk of losing access to quality in-home medical equipment and the valuable services that support these lifesaving products.

CMS recently expanded its regional reimbursement rates without a comprehensive evaluation of its impact on all parties involved, such as patients, medical equipment suppliers, hospitals, and the diverse communities served. Regions such as Atlanta and Los Angeles set prices for small town rural communities hundreds of miles away.

Read the full editorial.

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Mark Your Calendar

For more information about these and other events, visit the VRHA Calendar

September 20-21: Rural Health Clinic Conference - Kansas City, MO
September 21-23: Critical Access Hospital Conference - Kansas City, MO
September 23: Rural Health Funding Summit - South Boston
September 24: Forum on Prescription Drug Abuse for Healthcare Providers - Abingdon
September 25: Forum on Prescription Drug Abuse for Healthcare Providers - Blacksburg
October 18: Rural Health Telecommunication Consortium Kick-Off Meeting - Abingdon
October 18-19:  Rural Health Coding & Billing Specialist Training  - Abingdon
October 19-20: VRHA Annual Conference - Abingdon

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Vision and Aging: See Well for a LifetimeToolkit
​Whether you want to lead a small educational session about vision and aging, create an educational program, enhance your existing health program, or simply print materials to hand out, the See Well for a Lifetime Toolkit has just what you need. This three-module education series can be presented together or on a stand-alone basis. Each module features a PowerPoint presentation, speaker’s guide, and tip sheets that you can use as handouts. 

Clinical Practice Guidelines for Dental Sealants
In an update to previous recommendations, the ADA and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has released evidence-based clinical recommendations for the use of dental sealants for children and adolescents. The findings show sealants are an effective prevention strategy, can be placed over non-cavitated caries lesions, and clinicians should increase their use, where appropriate. 

Promoting Oral Health in Schools: A Resource Guide
Help for health professionals, program administrators, educators, parents, and others promote oral health and prevent oral disease in school-age children.

Factsheet: Rural and Small Hospitals
Fact sheet and position statement from the American Hospital Association identifying key legislation and policy priorities for rural and small hospitals, with a particular focus on Critical Access Hospitals.

Grant Writing for Rural Healthcare Projects
Extensive guide from the Rural Health Information Hub

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Funding Opportunities

For funding opportunities without a specific deadline, please visit the VRHA Resources page

Rural Policy Analysis Program
Grant to support research and analysis of key policy issues affecting health and human services in rural communities that informs policymakers on a national scope.
Application Deadline: Nov 14, 2016 

The Collaboration Prize
Identifies and showcases models of permanent collaboration between two or more nonprofit organizations. Recognizing the impact that can result from working together, the Prize shines a spotlight on collaborations that demonstrate innovative and effective responses to challenges or opportunities. A grand prize of $150,000 will be awarded to the collaboration that best exemplifies the impact that can result from working together on a permanent basis. Each of the eight finalists will receive $10,000.
Applications will be accepted from September 12, 2016 through October 20, 2016.

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Blacksburg, VA 24060

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