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The Washington County Mobile Integrated Healthcare Network is bringing together Great Mines Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center; Washington County Ambulance District, an emergency medical service (EMS) provider; and Mineral Area College, which trains EMS students, to build out mobile integration of heart care for high utilizers in a three-county rural area of Missouri.  

The Georgia Health Policy Center recently spoke to Roby Walker, human resources and compliance officer at Great Mines Health Center, about implementation and participation in the Rural Health Care Services Outreach Program.

To date, what has been the biggest accomplishment in your COVID-19 To date, what has been the biggest accomplishment or an early win in your program?  

It is pretty groundbreaking how organizations in health care are partnering with the local county ambulance district and a local community college to try to keep Medicaid patients with comorbidities out of the emergency room. We recognize that the ambulance district has limited resources to transport these patients to and from, so we can use cutting-edge technology to improve access to people that otherwise couldn’t come to the clinic. 

One story that stands out was during the test phases, with the help of technology and the paramedics, we were able to intervene and actually save a life. That is something we are incredibly proud of. 

What is a tip that you would share with an organization launching a similar program?  

Everything seems to come down to communication. Especially in these troubling times with another phase of the pandemic, communication and collaboration are that much more difficult. You need to make an extra concerted effort to be sure everybody understands what you are trying to accomplish. Don’t hesitate to reach out and collaborate with those around you. If you don’t know someone, perhaps someone you do know can help you make that initial contact. 

How do you see participation in the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy’s grantee program impacting your broader health improvement efforts?  

Participation brings us closer to our community. Our service area includes Washington County, St. Francis County, and Madison County. These are rural areas, with a lot of square miles and a lot of underserved people. But there are also technical issues there, particularly WiFi connectivity. If you have ever looked at those cellular commercials with the maps and you notice some of the blank areas — that’s us. A portion of our service areas are those blank areas, so connectivity is a major issue with trying to do telehealth in rural areas.  

We have been able to demonstrate in an early trial before the HRSA grant that there are a lot of unnecessary trips to the emergency department, which are oftentimes overcrowded. We are trying to lessen those visits that perhaps can be treated at other venues with other means, using telehealth for that initial consultation and getting their stats. In a very short window, the savings to the Missouri Medicaid program was over $50,000. Over the entire project, the projected savings are going to be in the millions of dollars. With that data and evidence, we will be able to achieve bigger, better things and influence others with that data. 

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