SPOKANE – The Northwest’s largest conferences on rural health take place March 29-31, drawing health professionals from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Idaho and Washington. Building on the theme “Retrofitting for Reform,” experts and community leaders will present new strategies and innovations in patient care, workforce retention, technical solutions and policy development.
 
“Economic challenges and ever-changing government regulation require a fresh look and real changes in how we deliver care, especially to our rural communities,” said Bettie Rundlett, chair for the NW Regional Rural Health Conference and coordinator of programs for the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) in Spokane, which is part of WSU Extension. “How do we ‘retrofit for reform?’ How do we sustain the quality standards to which we aspire? By learning from those with expertise, experience and enthusiasm.”
 
Detailed information for both conferences is available at http://extension.wsu.edu/ahec/conferences/. Registration is required to attend and is preferred by March 17. NW CAH Conference registration is $60 and Rural Health Conference fees range from $125-$245. Online registration is available at www.regonline.com/2011NWCAH_RHC.
 
Two conferences span the three days, with the ninth annual one-day Northwest Regional Critical Access Hospital Conference on March 29. It is designed for critical access hospital (CAH) administrators, staff, clinicians and board members.
 
Attendees learn, share, plan and maximize the opportunities offered through the CAH designation in nine breakout sessions where experts present on quality/performance improvement, finance, CMS and more.
 
Keynote topics and speakers will include:
•“Office of Rural Health Policy Federal Update” by Tom Morris, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration
•“The Federal Budget and Health Care Reform” with John Supplitt, American Hospital Association
•“Generative Culture for Quality – Health Care’s Next Strategic Move,” Darlene Bainbridge, RN, of D.D. Bainbridge & Associates, Inc.
 
The 24th NW Regional Rural Health Conference, March 30-31, will focus on retrofitting for reform through sharing proven tips, tools, methods and initiatives. More than 20 breakout sessions will encourage an exchange of information about programs and strategies that can be models for changing rural health and health care delivery, both at state and regional levels.
 
The 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 conference will open with a Northwest health leaders panel moderated by Karen Jensen, assistant secretary of the Washington State Department of Health.
 
Wednesday’s Washington Rural Health Association awards luncheon will include the state health department’s Kris Sparks, president of the National Rural Health Association, and will feature Joe Finkbonner, executive director of the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board. He will discuss the impacts of the Affordable Care Act and potential implications on the Indian Health System.
 
Thursday morning’s keynote features Carlos Olivares, executive director of the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, who will present on expected changes in health care reform and the potential effect it will have in community health centers and for rural health care providers.
 
The NW Rural Health conference strives to stay abreast of policy and regulation developments that impact healthcare delivery at the federal, regional, state and local levels. At the same time, it delivers content inclusive of collaborative rural models, innovative community projects, quality, information technology and other underlying themes that shape the way business is done.
 
Conference sponsors include Inland Northwest Health Services, Northwest MedStar, St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, Association of Washington Public Hospital Districts, Virginia Mason Team Medicine, Providence-Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital, Qualis Health, GCI Connect MD, Neenan Company, Parker Smith Feek, Washington Casualty Company, Wipfli LLP and Graham.
 
For a copy of the brochure containing information for both conferences, go to the web address listed above or contact the AHEC at 509-358-7640, 800-279-0705 or ahec@wsu.edu.