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New Stratis Health Project to Advance Palliative Care in Rural Communities

Published Monday, November 20, 2017

Project will expand access to services in three states and identify how to leverage alternative payment models and technology to foster rural palliative care

Stratis Health has launched a multi-state project to increase access to palliative care services in rural communities. The project aims to build local capacity to cultivate palliative care programs, frame services within emerging payment models, and explore how technology can enhance the quality and efficiency of services.

Palliative care improves quality of life and quality of care for those with advanced illness and complex care needs and their families. It customizes treatment to meet the needs of each person, such as those with multiple chronic conditions, a long-term cancer diagnosis, or the frail elderly. This whole person care seeks to relieve pain, anxiety, and other symptoms, as well as provide emotional and spiritual support, so people can live more comfortably with their illnesses. Studies have shown that palliative care can increase patient satisfaction, and reduce 30-day rehospitalizations and emergency department visits.

The three-year project will build skills within the State Offices of Rural Health in North Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin to expand access to rural community-based palliative care services in their state. Each organization will support the launch of palliative care services in five to eight rural communities in their state.

A pioneer in advancing rural palliative care, Stratis Health will use its well-tested community capacity building framework for establishing and supporting palliative care services in rural communities. Instead of hospital-centered palliative care programs prevalent in urban areas, community-based models, supported by an interdisciplinary collaborative team, often are more appropriate in rural areas.

“We work with rural communities to understand their local assets and how to leverage those assets and connections to develop palliative care services,” explained Karla Weng, Stratis Health project lead. Stratis Health has worked with more than 25 rural communities since 2008 to identify how they can deliver palliative care using their current strengths and resources.

To make new advances in rural palliative care, Stratis Health will gather information from health care and policy leaders to develop a blueprint for how palliative care services align within the context of changing health care payment and reimbursement programs. Stratis Health also will work with one or two existing rural community-based palliative care programs in Minnesota to explore how technology can be used to increase access to services and improve the quality and efficiency of the services provided.

“We’re grateful for this opportunity to improve quality of life and quality of care for people living in rural areas. This project truly has the potential to make lives better,” said Jennifer Lundblad, PhD, MBA, president and CEO, Stratis Health.

This work is supported in part by Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, with program evaluation led by NORC at the University of Chicago. Find more information on rural palliative care in the Rural Palliative Care Resource Center.