Small Health Care Provider Quality Improvement Program: St. Bernards Five Rivers Medical Center 

The Georgia Health Policy Center recently spoke to Candi Kelly, MBA, ambulatory services administrator, and Mitchell Nail, media relations manager, at St. Bernards Five Rivers Medical Center about how their grant is improving quality and culturally competent care in Pocahontas, Ark. 


To date, what has been the biggest accomplishment or win in your program?  

Candi: With this grant we were able to add another advanced practice registered nurse and a care manager to our program. This allows us to better track the progress of our patients. We are also able to guide our patients and their families into health care and we can reinforce and re-educate about healthy living to our patients. We do have an impoverished population in Pocahontas. It is hard for our patients to get to the clinic and get the treatment they need. With these new positions, we are providing a weekly encounter with them via the telephone, and we even make home visits for some of our homebound patients. This has really improved the quality of health care at St. Bernards Five Rivers Medical Clinic. 


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

Candi: It takes a team effort — the patient, the health care team, the families, and the community. You have to understand your patient’s living situation, their culture, and their lifestyle. We have a big population of Pacific Islanders in our community. We were able to employ a translator for the Marshallese community.  

Mitchell: There is a burgeoning poultry industry in Randolph County, where St. Bernards Five Rivers Medical Center is located. It has drawn that population to the area and diversified the demographics of the patients that we serve. 

Candi: The Marshallese population has an abundance of diabetes and hypertension, and it was hard for us to understand their culture and their lifestyle. But by hiring someone to help translate, it has helped everything. She helped with the planning and implementing of translated materials. The Marshallese community operates heavily on trust. By bringing her into our facility, it helped bring in the patients, too. She is established with them, and they trust her. So, when she is standing next to our providers, this population feels more comfortable coming into the clinic.  

Mitchell: The care we are providing has not changed, but how we deliver that care has to change. Because you cannot serve one population the exact same way as you serve another. 


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

Candi: We participate in a lot of health fairs and essentially, we serve as a bridge to make sure that continuity is not broken. That is one of the benefits of being part of a health care system. We can help them establish a relationship with a primary care doctor that is close to home and help them if they have to travel a little bit to see a specialist.  

Mitchell: Many of these people who come to these screenings do not have that relationship with their own doctor and do not know what their baseline health is. We are extending that olive branch. We hope we don’t find something, but if we do, we can help them seek out medical help or we can just help them establish a relationship with a doctor. 


What will your organization be doing more of or differently to emerge stronger from the pandemic? 

Candi: In rural health care, we have to bridge those gaps and work with others partners in the community through the supply chain or other issues that we have to provide the best service for our patient. 

Mitchell: It is important to leverage your community connections and to have those partners. The neat thing about St. Bernards Five Rivers is it is embedded within the community of Pocahontas. There is an inextricable link there. It builds that level of trust. We relearned that through COVID that without trust, health care just doesn’t work. To reach our patients, you have to have those community connections, which fosters a level of trust that we can extend throughout the community. 

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