UPMC-Kane picked for pilot program on rural health

Ted Lutz
Staff Writer

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)-Kane has been selected to participate in a state pilot program to boost rural hospitals.
The pilot program began Jan. 1 for UPMC-Kane and the four other rural hospitals taking part in the study.
In addition to UPMC-Kane, other first-year pilot hospital participants include:
• Barnes-Kasson Hospital in Susquehanna.
• Endless Mountains Health Systems in Montrose.
• Geisinger Jersey Shore Hospital.
• Wayne Memorial Hospital in Honesdale.
“The Pennsylvania Rural Health Model will provide hospitals with a stable revenue source over the upcoming years as a global budget payment,” Mark Papalia told the Kane Republican. He is the president of UPMC-Kane. 
“This will enable participating rural hospitals to invest in quality and preventive care and to tailor the services they deliver to better meet the needs of their local communities,” Papalia said. “This is a total shift from the standard “Fee For Service” environment where hospitals get paid for the number of services provided.  
“Here it gives us the opportunity to keep our people healthy and to get paid for it. 
“We are very excited to be one of five hospitals participating in this demonstration project. The model will create incentives for hospitals to improve quality and reduce the growth in hospital expenditures through avoidable utilization. 
“This will allow us to provide the very best care in the most appropriate setting. 
“We continue to look forward to working with Secretary Levine and the dedicated team from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.”
Officials at other hospitals in the pilot program also have expressed optimism about the pilot’s first year.
They believe the rural hospital community and government “partners” can work together to solve common problems and make plans for the future.
The pilot program is expected to help participants prioritize the health and wellbeing of the patients they serve and achieve greater financial stability.
According to health reports, the state’s rural hospitals care for about 3.4 million individuals or about one in four residents of Pennsylvania.
The Rural Health Model is seen as a crucial  program to preserve access to high-quality health care in rural areas.
According to information provided by the state, rural hospitals tend to treat older patients with more medically complex conditions.
Rural hospitals are located in communities with social, geographic and economic barriers that contribute to possible poorer health outcomes.
In rural areas, the patient base relies more on government insurers. This often means that rural hospitals are reimbursed at rates below the cost of care.
Despite contributing more than $6 billion to the state’s economy and supporting more than 43,760 jobs, the state’s rural hospitals face unique challenges.
More than half reported negative total operating margins during fiscal year 2016, according to state information.
The Rural Health Model pilot program, which features the Kane hospital as one of the participants, hopes to focus on the improvement of the overall health and wellbeing of patients and families through preventive care and chronic condition management.
The Kane hospital and the other four medical centers in the statewide pilot program are customizing their services to address community-specific needs, including behavioral health care.
The opioid crisis, geriatric services and diabetes management also are among the top issues to be covered in the pilot program.