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Originally published: 2014-04-10 13:54:12
Last modified: 2014-04-10 13:54:57

AccessCare and Appalachian named finalist in National Rural Health contest

AccessCare of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian State University's College of Health Sciences have been named a finalist in a national rural health competition for their innovative collaboration to enlist undergraduate students as interns to help rural practices achieve patient-centered medical home status.

The collaboration is among four finalists from around the country that will present their ideas about how to tackle entrenched health issues in rural areas to more than 100 stakeholders from North Carolina's health care community Friday at Campbell University. 

One winner will receive a $25,000 prize awarded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

AccessCare of the Blue Ridge is a program based in Mooresville designed to improve the quality of medical care and reduce costs through a variety of evidence-based programs and initiatives.

 By partnering with Appalachian's undergraduate health care management program and rural primary care practices, it discovered an innovative solution for helping practices achieve patient-centered medical homes designation from the National Committee on Quality Assurance.

Achieving PCMH status means a practice provides patient centered, comprehensive, coordinated care that is accessible, high quality and safe. 

The recognition results in improved clinical outcomes and cost savings; however, achieving this status is often complicated and time consuming for small staffs in rural clinics, according to college officials.

Students from the College of Health Sciences' health care management program enrolled in an elective course with academic credit and some received required internship credit to help these practices achieve this designation.

 Facilitators from the Blue Ridge network and students worked with rural practices' office staff who had been designated "PCMH Champions."

The AccessCare PCMH team met with the students for weekly didactic sessions about PCMH, Blue Quality Physician Program, a quality assurance program of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, HIPAA compliance, the quality assurance committee's process and team building skills.

To date, 18 primary care practices representing more than 26,000 patients in northwest North Carolina have achieved PCMH recognition, improved clinical outcomes and saved health care dollars. They also qualified for extra reimbursement under the Blue Quality Physician Program and benefited from websites and consumer satisfaction surveys designed by health care management majors at Appalachian.

Dozens of students have gained valuable experience through this partnership and launched their careers in health care management.

The collaboration is beginning similar work through a remote course track that enables students to work with practices in rural counties outside of the AccessCare of the Blue Ridge service area.About the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, one of North Carolina's largest private philanthropies, launched the Rural Health Award to recognize outstanding rural health work from around the country and plans to explore possibilities for implementing the winning project in the state in the coming year.