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SPRHC sets sights on RHC designation

by Bill Knowles

WALSENBURG- The Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center is actively pursuing a Rural Health Care designation for the Family Clinic from the Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) program. This was noted in a report given by Spanish Peaks Hospital CEO Todd Oberheu during a regular meeting of the Hospital District Board on Monday, July 27.

    An RHC designation may help to increase primary care services for Medicaid and Medicare patients in Huerfano County.  The designation will allow for enhanced reimbursement rates for providing Medicaid and Medicare services in rural areas.  These services are reimbursed under the cost-based method or an alternative Prospective Payment System (PPS).   RHCs must be located in rural, underserved areas and must use one or more physician assistants or nurse practitioners. SPRHC hopes to have the Rural Health Center designation by the end of the year.

    Also in the works is the submission of an application for a Level One designation as a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) for the Family Clinic.  The designation helps establish care teams led by primary care physicians that will bring intensive focus to patients’ individual health goals and needs.  Primary care physicians can be pediatricians, internists and family practice doctors.          The care teams work with patients to keep them healthy and monitor their care on an ongoing basis. PCMH teams coordinate patients’ health care using registries to track patients’ conditions and assure they receive the care they need.

The teams offer extended access to care, coordinate complementary care, such as nutrition counseling, and help patients learn to self-manage conditions such as asthma and diabetes. They also make sure that a patient doesn’t get lost in the system.

    Preliminary data from studies conducted in Michigan, show that PCMH-designated doctors are succeeding in managing their patients’ care to keep them healthy and help prevent complications that require expensive medical services to treat.  This approach helps hold down the costs of medical care in some cases.  For example, a review of data shows that PCMH practices have a 2 percent lower rate of adult radiology usage than non-PCMH practices, and PCMH practices have a 2.6 percent lower rate of adult inpatient admissions than non-PCMH practices.  The Family Clinic could be designated a Level One Patient Centered Medical Home as early as next month.

    The future location of the Walsenburg Care Center is still being discussed.  Earlier this year the assisted living home was in talks with the city about a possible location at the former Lathrop Boys’ Home just east of the Spanish Peaks Hospital. 

    Land for the care center at the Lathrop location was being negotiated between the city, the state and SPRHC with a land swap between the city and state on the table.  The county has since stepped in and offered land to the care center.  As of press time details are scarce with meetings between the parties in progress.