What's New with Critical Access Hospitals in the West? Find Out in June!

Later this spring, Critical Access Hospital (CAH) administrators, state Flex program staff, and rural health care leaders will gather to share information and best practices with their peers at the Western Region Flex Conference at Tucson’s Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain Resort. 

Attendees will not only learn what CAHs in the western half of the US are doing to preserve essential medical services in their communities, but will also learn about the latest state and national health policy developments and their impact on rural health care from nationally-recognized experts such as Keith Mueller from the University of Iowa and the Rural Policy Research Institute and John Supplitt from the American Hospital Association. The conference will also showcase successful efforts undertaken by rural providers and communities in the western US to overcome barriers to implementing and sustaining telemedicine services.

Western Regional Flex Conference
Western Regional Flex Conference

The conference will open with a workshop devoted to quality improvement and patient safety efforts undertaken by CAHs and state Flex programs as we strive to go above and beyond mandatory quality reporting requirements.

For the past twelve years, I’ve left this conference energized, not to mention a good deal smarter about the challenges, as well as opportunities facing CAHs and rural providers in my state of Nevada. If you haven’t already registered for this conference, consider attending this year’s event whose aptly named theme is “Making a Difference for CAHs and the Communities They Serve.”

Elizabeth Krupinski, PhD, Program Director for the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center, has pulled together a nationally respected panel to discuss telemedicine and the benefits it provides to rural America. Joining Dr. Krupinski in this discussion is Dale Alverson MD, Medical Director University of New Mexico Center for Telehealth, Gigi Sorenson RN, MSN Telehealth Director Northern Arizona Healthcare and Mario Gutierrez, MPH, Executive Director, Center for Connected Health Policy. 

Mr. Gutierrez, an expert in telehealth policy, will start out with a talk on “How Telemedicine Fits in the Triple Aim and New ACO Models”. He will be followed by Dr. Alverson speaking on “Telemedicine and HIE” a topic he has promoted for years. Ms. Sorenson will then speak on “Implementing Telemedicine at the Local Level – Geography and Clients”, reflecting her hands-on expertise in developing new and sustaining existing programs. Finally, Dr. Krupinski will provide information on “Standards, Guidelines and Telemedicine as the Standard of Care” from her perspective as Chair of the American Telemedicine Association’s Practice Guidelines Committee. 

In addition to the afternoon panel, the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center (SWTRC) will have a table in the exhibit hall where attendees can learn more about telemedicine. 

“I’ve attended the Western Flex conference four of the past five years. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the Critical Access Hospitals and the FLEX programs to network and share information on sustained access to quality health care.  Since telemedicine can be such an integral part of this access, I find that participants are always very informed and enthusiastic about discussing the use of telemedicine to meet their goals!” said Tracy Skinner, SWTRC.  

For more information about the 13th Annual Western Regional Flex Conference, please visit the conference website.

About the Author

Dr. John Packham is the Director of Health Policy Research at the University of Nevada School of Medicine. He coordinates the Nevada Rural Hospital Flexibility Program (Flex) and Nevada Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program (SHIP) that support technical assistance to Nevada’s rural and frontier hospitals. He also oversees health workforce research, applied health services research, and policy analysis undertaken by the UNSOM Office of Statewide Initiatives.