A New Vision for Rural Health in Washington

The Healthier Washington Rural Health Innovation Accelerator Committee (RHIAC) released their rural health assessment, A New Vision for Rural Health in Washington.

Generally, residents in rural areas are more likely to be food insecure, become obese and get diabetes, and be uninsured. They likely have less access to homecare, hospice services, and care providers. They are more likely to cost the health care system more than their urban counterparts.

In order to support rural health transformation, the RHIAC recommends two main areas of focus, supporting the creation of public-private partnerships and working with technologists. Since solutions that work in one rural area might be hyper-specific, they may not be portable or scalable. Therefore, community level data and technology services by local providers should be used as policy leaders, health advocates, and technology firms work to quickly innovate and create area-specific solutions.

The RHIAC suggests a basic framework of six core elements for the practical implementation of new innovations: regional plan and policy, resource model and funding, stakeholder alignment, data platform at scale, local plan and adaptation, and measurement, monitoring and adjustment.

The RHIAC developed seven core initiatives to transform rural health:

The health conditions and risks of all rural community members are determined so they can actively participate in achieving their health care goals, and so that each community member’s health conditions and risks can be aggregated to determine optimal population health strategies.

Primary care is redefined to include virtual care, care teams, and alternative settings convenient for patients. The goal is for all rural community members to have a relationship with their primary care team and to engage with the health care system at least every 24 months. Specialty care is triaged and favors virtual care delivery.

Patient satisfaction is not just with primary care, but for what the patient sees as their issues, and is measured at the point of service to ensure that the patient is satisfied. Primary care team engagement with the patient is a minimum.

Technology enables the achievement of system and transformational goals and is supported through pervasive strategic partnerships.

Total cost of care is reduced by addressing the disease burden and ensuring outcomes are on par with an urban setting.

Rural community members have options and a large network of providers that encompass the continuum of care.

Rural organizational thought leaders in Washington State support and spur colleagues to innovate.