06 Apr President Jon Cartu Reports – Medical Guide 2020: A Model Rural Health Clinic
North Sunflower Medical Center’s Chief Compliance Officer Joanie Perkins knew the Sunflower Rural Health Clinic was special, but she never expected the healthcare facility to be named one of the top 25 rural health clinics in the country.
That’s exactly what happened in early 2020 when Maine-based analytics firm Lilypad awarded the designation to the clinic.
The award designates the clinic one of the top 5 provider based rural health clinics in the Southeast — and one of the top 50 rural health clinics in the country.
The Lilypad Award analyzes data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid program to calculate the top performing rural health clinics in the nation. Data is taken from the 4,400 rural health clinics across the country that are reviewed in the December 2019 Medicare Cost Report.
Sunflower Rural Health Clinic was almost an afterthought at one point in NSMC’s history. In the early 2000s, it sat as a single mobile building behind the hospital, serving about 120 patients a month.
“That was one of the first things Billy (Marlow) did when he took over (as executive director of NSMC) was to move it in front of the hospital where it is more visible, with better access for our patients,” said NSMC’s Robyn Marlow.
The building was moved in the mid-2000s, a couple of years before Perkins joined the staff at the hospital.
Since then, it has been added onto five times, and it now serves an average of 3,500 patients a month, a larger patient pool than the population of Ruleville.
Lilypad examines the cost reports for over 4,000 rural health clinics across the country, Sunflower being one of them.
Utilizing data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid program to calculate rural-relevant metrics across five domains, the Lilypad Awards provide a comprehensive and objective assessment of rural health clinic performance, Lilypad said in an earlier release.
The Lilypad Awards and Lilypad’s Practice Operations National Database (POND®) programs are used nationally by rural clinics, State Offices of Rural Health, regional health care systems and rural hospitals to measure and monitor rural primary care practice performance.
They serve, Lilypad said, as the foundation for several state and national rural primary care performance improvement initiatives.
In many cases Rural Health Clinics receive enhanced reimbursement from government payers such as Medicare and Medicaid as a means of sustaining financial solvency.
Rural Health Clinics must meet one or more health care shortage designations to be eligible for the program and generally are categorized as either provider-based (hospital-owned) or independent. Continued From Page 12
The Lilypad Awards evaluate both provider types to produce a comprehensive ranking system for every Rural Health Clinic in the nation, Lilypad said.
Sunflower Rural Health Clinic provides a number of services to its community’s patients, including physicians, nurse practitioners, Mississippi Sports Medicine providers and more.
Perkins said it’s not just the services offered in the small Delta town, but it’s how they manage effectiveness for patients and cost.
“It’s important that we keep our health care affordable,” Perkins said. “If you look at the statistics of this town, right here, a third of our population lives below the federal poverty guidelines. We’re here to serve the health professional shortage area.”
Over the past few years, Perkins has taken a deep dive into all of the data she has been able to get hold of.
She has been able to look hard at patient and provider behavior, and she said it has been the changing of those behaviors that has been the difference.
“They have had to change their behavior, and we have had to change ours,” Perkins said. “The more efficient we are, the better it is for our patients.”
One area in particular the clinic has been able to attack is avoidable emergency room visits.
Often times, the cost of going to the emergency room is hundreds of dollars more than getting the same treatment at the rural health clinic.
“If we can keep you out of there, we’re going to do it,” Perkins said.
Perkins said that each patient has a personal care plan from their primary provider.
The provider follows up with the patient to make sure they picked up their medicine, are taking their medicine and are making it to follow-up appointments.
The clinic also has implemented a fall risk assessment for patients over the age of 65.
Patients are able to modify their homes and behavior to help avoid falls.
“We’re trying to stay one step ahead for our patients,” Perkins said.
Sunflower Rural Health Clinic is open 8 a.m. until midnight seven days a week on the campus of NSMC.