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Transforming Rural Healthcare in Kansas

Federal grant helps new group target heart disease, stroke

Northwest Kansas is home to some of the country's most rural communities – and it's also at the center of a pioneering new healthcare initiative targeting heart disease and strokes.

The program involves numerous organizations: The University of Kansas Health System, Hays Medical Center, 10 critical access hospitals, a federally qualified health center and specialists serving northwest Kansas.

Kansas Heart and Stroke Collaborative participants

Funded by a $12.5 million federal grant, the groups established the Kansas Heart and Stroke Collaborative to focus on improving the prevention, diagnosis, management and treatment of heart disease and stroke, the No. 1 cause of death in Kansas.

"The primary objective of the collaborative is to provide new models of care and payment across the continuum of care to improve clinical outcomes and reduce healthcare costs in rural Kansas," said Barbara MacArthur, RN, Cardiac Services vice president at The University of Kansas Health System.

"Through this program, we will implement new strategies to more effectively manage patients' treatment, post-care and long-term care – from primary care providers to community hospitals to medical centers."

Another component is a preventative health program focused on at-risk patients. The collaborative will establish care managers and health coaches within rural communities to engage residents in improving their health through personalized education, health screenings and ongoing monitoring.

The goal of the three-year grant is to reduce deaths from stroke and heart attack in northwest Kansas by 20 percent while reducing healthcare costs by $13.8 million (1.9 percent savings). The savings will make the program financially sustainable after grant funding ends.

With all members working together, the collaborative will:

  • Develop shared clinical guidelines for moving patients to the next level of care.
  • Provide care coordination and management.
  • Deliver more telemedicine resources.
  • Leverage electronic health information exchanges.
  • Establish standards and procedures to increase efficiency and economics of scale.
  • Design and deploy payment models to support rural providers.
  • Create a forum for sharing best practices and regional care strategies.

"We believe the collaborative's innovative models will ensure rural Kansans receive the right care at the right place at the right time," MacArthur said.