SPOKANE – The seventh NW Regional Critical Access Hospital Conference on March 18 and 22 and the NW Regional Rural Health Conference from March 19-20 incorporate Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska in the Northwest’s largest gathering on rural health with more than 300 health professionals attending. Both conferences will be held at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in Spokane, Wash.

Featured speakers include internationally renowned Carl Hammerschlag, MD, presidents of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the National Rural Health Association, federal experts from the Health Resources and Services Administration and the American Hospital Association.

The NW Regional Critical Access Hospital (CAH) Conference—“Looking Forward: Challenges in Quality, Safety, and Facilities”—is a one-day conference designed specifically for CAH administrators, staff, clinicians and board members. Attendees learn, share, plan and maximize the opportunities offered through the CAH designation as experts present on quality/performance improvement, finance, patient safety, CMS, the federal update and more.

“We are excited about this year’s program,” said Mike Lee, chair for the NW Regional CAH Conference. “Everything from an update by Tom Morris, from the federal Office of Rural Health Policy, regarding the latest initiatives of the new Obama administration, to specific hospital operational programs is covered. Take a look; I’m sure you’ll see something of value.”

The full conference schedule is at www.ahec.spokane.wsu.edu and includes the following keynote speakers and topics:

• Tom Morris, Rural Health Policy Health Resources and Services Administration, on “Federal Landscape for CAHs”
• Don May, American Hospital Association, on “Rollout of Medicare’s Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) Program”
• Bill Dowling, Ph.D., School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington • Paul Saultz, MD, Family Medicine, Oregon Health Sciences University, on “Medical Home Panel”

This conference is produced with support by state offices of rural health for Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

The joint conference reception will be 5-6:30 p.m. co-hosted with the NW Regional Rural Health Conference, which follows the NW Regional CAH Conference on March 19-20, 2009 in the same location.

The NW Regional Rural Health Conference—“Planting the Seeds: Transforming Rural Health through Local Programs and Strategies”—will be the 22nd gathering of rural health leaders and advocates to share strategies and cutting edge ideas, discuss innovations and out-of-the-box ideas, and share success stories of small efforts that have grown larger.

“This conference, more than any other in the Northwest, brings together both key opinion leaders in the rural health field and local leaders who keep our rural health systems strong,” said Peter House, chair NW Regional Rural Health Conference. “We look forward to lively presentations as well as engaging discussions in the sessions and at social events.”

This annual gathering is designed to be of interest to a wide range of rural health advocates including providers, community leaders, administrators, board members, commissioners, policy makers, public health professionals and others. The focus is on small initiatives that led to better community health through program expansion, larger health systems change, and other community-based programs that grew into larger initiatives at state, regional or national levels. Sessions are aimed on information exchange about local community programs and strategies that can be models for changing rural health delivery at the state and regional levels.

The conference strives to stay abreast of the current policy and regulation developments at the federal, regional, state and local levels which impact healthcare delivery. While at the same time delivering content inclusive of collaborative rural models, innovative community projects, quality, healthcare information technology and other underlying themes that shape the way business is done.

Internationally renowned expert and speaker, Carl Hammerschlag, MD, CPAE, will present the keynote address—“The Quest for Vision.” His unique insights and visionary skills are sure to help people and organizations thrive. Also included in the conference will be a Northwest Health Leaders Panel with representatives from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
 
The WRHA Awards Luncheon on Thursday includes Mary Selecky, Secretary of Health for the Washington State Department of Health as the emcee and Scott Ekblad, Oregon Office of Rural Health, on “Recruitment in the 21st Century.”

The conference is presented by the Washington Rural Health Association and the Washington statewide Office of Rural Health including the Area Health Education Center of Eastern Washington, WSU Extension; Community Health Systems Office/Rural Health, Washington State Department of Health; University of Washington School of Medicine; WSU; and Western Washington Area Health Education Center.

For full conference schedules or to register online go to www.ahec.spokane.wsu.edu. For added convenience, participants can register for one or both conferences at the same time using just one registration form.

Registration is required to attend the conferences and is preferred by March 6. CAH Conference registration is $60 and Rural Health Conference fees range from $125-$245. For a copy of the brochure containing information for both conferences, go to www.ahec.spokane.wsu.edu or contact the Area Health Education Center of Eastern Washington, WSU Extension at 509-358-7640, 800-279-0705 or ahec@wsu.edu.

Sponsors for both conferences include Association of Washington Public Hospital Districts, The CBO Solution, Providence – Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital, Washington State Hospital Association, Dougherty Mortgage LLC and The Neenan Company, Qualis Health, FinCor Solutions/Washington Casualty Company, Parker Smith Feek, and GCI ConnectMD.