I just came back from attending the 31st Annual Oregon Rural Health Conference in Sunriver, Oregon. The conference, presented by the Oregon Office of Rural Health (located at Oregon Health & Science University [OHSU]), brought together about 200 clinicians, administrators, academicians, coordinated care organization members, government officials and students, all committed to the idea of “Making Healthcare Reform Work for Rural Oregonians.” This conference was a wonderful opportunity for people to get together and not only talk about the issues facing rural communities but to proactively discuss ways to address and help to remediate these issues.
Everyone that I spoke with, from dental hygienists, to doctors, to students, to clinic managers, is passionate about making a difference in the rural communities where they serve. I was so impressed by everyone’s interest and commitment in preserving access to local health care services for rural Oregonians. This requires designing and implementing new models of care delivery for rural clinics and hospitals. And these folks are up to the task!
Since one of my interests is oral health, I attended the “Community-based Oral Health Care,” and “Current and Future Models for Rural Dental Practice” discussions. However, just as important was time spent learning about the importance of data and use of electronic medical records, the role of physician assistants and nurse practitioners in practices; how Medicaid transformation is changing the way we care for our communities; the patient-centered medical home, and telemedicine.
Can it get any better than that? Yes, it can! OHSU is developing a “Campus for Rural Health,” to be headquartered in Klamath Falls. This campus will offer inter-professional training opportunities for dental, medical, physician assistant, nursing, pharmacy, and public health students. So, keep your eyes focused on activities in Oregon, where visionaries are setting the pace in rural healthcare.