2018 New England Rural Healthcare Association Annual Conference

11 Jan, 2024

On November 7 and 8th, I attended the 2018 New England Rural Health Conference in beautiful Newry, ME at the Sunday River Ski conference center. While embarking on the scenic 5 ½ hour drive through rural parts of NY, VT, NH, and ME, I gained a better understanding of the unique demographic challenges that rural communities often face on a daily basis. The limited access to crucial services including primary care, specialists, mental health, social work, and dentistry is alarming. Secondly, this limited access poses an even greater risk for improving the quality of care and health outcomes for the millions of underserved people living in rural America.  

One health organization at the convention that is dedicated to solving this problem and help improve access to care is Maine Quality Counts (MQC).  Their program is comprised of clinical experts and a multitude of caring people collaborating on health issues by using pooled resources to help bridge care delivery gaps in Maine. This unique pathway is extremely effective for disseminating crucial knowledge from clinical specialists to rural providers, advanced practice, nurses, and allied healthcare professionals working throughout New England. Maine Quality Care functions like an open source code by sharing resources, knowledge, best practices, and health outcome data using integrated technology platforms. Their model helps provide a broader reach to many underserved populations in a targeted or specific region. MQC focuses on advancing population health, dental care, mental health, and many other vital clinical resources for the people of Maine. Together, MQC helps contribute to a more efficient rural care delivery model that is arguably more effective than a standalone healthcare entity. 

Another inspiring discovery for me was that of a rapidly growing movement committed to sharing knowledge to improve and provide quality care to millions of underserved populations across the globe. In 2003, Dr. Sanjeev Arora, a liver disease specialized doctor, launched a ground-breaking program. The idea arose when he became frustrated by seeing thousands of people from New Mexico, who were diagnosed with hepatitis C, waiting months to be seen for treatment. He was one of two specialty providers in the state for liver disease. Dr. Arora’s frustration spawned innovation as he created ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes). In 2011, a study released in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that Hep C patients treated by ECHO trained clinicians was equal to the care provided by University trained specialists, thus supporting this model.

During the conference, I was intrigued to learn more about MQC and the Northern New England Network ECHO programs. These, along with similar programs, are making tremendous strides as new specialty ECHO hubs connect patients to specialists, hospitals, primary care, and clinics while collaborating to provide quality care to those in need. Dr. Arora is a true visionary who has helped many urban and rural environments to care for and treat thousands of people across the globe. Today, the Project ECHO website lists over 220 hubs treating over 100 diseases and health conditions throughout 31 countries.

My final thought from the Rural Health Conference is that anything is possible when talented and compassionate people work together to solve problems. I am both inspired and empowered to take and share the knowledge that I have learned to my team, organizations, colleges, and hospitals we serve. I am so thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with the many dedicated and caring professionals at this conference. We here at Stat Staff look forward to attending the 2019 Rural Health Conference and expanding our knowledge of the ever-changing world of healthcare. 

Congratulations to Dervilla McCann MD FACC from Central Maine Healthcare on winning our Saratoga Basket!


References:

Project ECHO – Maine Quality Counts. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://mainequalitycounts.org/initiatives-resources/echo-test/

A Revolution in Medical Education and Care Delivery. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://echo.unm.edu/

Mohan, K. M. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved from https://nerha.memberclicks.net/

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