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In Kansas, a new approach to heart disease, stroke

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Above image credit: Martie Ross, a health care consultant from Overland Park, talked Thursday about new ways of delivering care outside of urban areas during a conference in Kansas City, Mo., put on by the National Rural Health Association. (Photo by Mike Sherry/The Hale Center for Journalism)

A new health care partnership, looked upon as a potential model for the rest of the country, is taking direct aim at heart disease and stroke in northwest Kansas.

The federally funded initiative — the Kansas Heart and Stroke Collaborative — encompasses the University of Kansas Hospital along with 13 rural health centers and hospitals, including Hays Medical Center. Heart disease and stroke are responsible for about 20 percent of the deaths in the state.

“We are not going to try and boil the ocean,” said Martie Ross, speaking about the narrow focus Thursday during a session of a national conference taking place in Kansas City, Missouri, put on by the National Rural Health Association. Ross, an Overland Park–based health care consultant, is helping to administer the collaborative.

The model of the consortium, she said, is to have separate organizations maintain their independence while formalizing a relationship aimed at better coordination of care for patients.

One aspect, Ross said, is establishing a shared-savings program where the partners benefit financially from improved outcomes that lower the cost of care.

The collaborative began in July when the federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation awarded a $12.5 million, three-year grant to KU Hospital. Ross said the consortium was one of 39 projects around the country included in the funding round.

The aim of the collaborative, she said, is to reduce the incidence of heart disease and stroke in northwest Kansas by 20 percent. The partners also expect to produce cost-of-care savings of about $13 million.

She said the consortium is similar to the Health Network of Missouri, announced in June, which includes University of Missouri Health Care in Columbia along with community hospitals in Sedalia, Jefferson City, Hannibal, and Osage Beach.

One key to success in these ventures, Ross said, is establishing an organizational structure designed to meet many goals, including collaborative decision making and a lean management structure.

“You can’t do any of these things informally,” she said.

Along with KU Hospital and Hays Medical Center, the other members of the collaborative are:

  • Cheyenne County Hospital
  • Citizens Medical Center Inc.
  • Gove County Medical Center
  • Ness County Hospital District 2
  • Norton County Hospital
  • Pawnee Valley Community Hospital
  • Phillips County Hospital
  • Russell Regional Hospital
  • Sheridan County Health Complex
  • Trego County-Lemke Memorial Hospital

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