Rural health award established in memory of health care leader

The Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH) at Penn State has created a state rural health award in memory of a longtime hospital administrator whose innovative leadership skills personified the traits the award seeks to honor.

Beginning in 2011, PORH will present the Louis Ditzel Award for Quality Improvement in Rural Health annually to an individual whose contributions and visionary leadership significantly improved the health of rural Pennsylvanians and strengthened the quality of the health care systems that serve them. The award is named in memory of Louis A. Ditzel, Jr., who retired as president and chief executive officer of Jersey Shore Hospital (JSH) in 2007. Ditzel, who died in June 2010, also worked at Shamokin Area Community Hospital (Pennsylvania), Irvington General Hospital (New Jersey) and Muhlenberg Hospital (Plainfield, N.J.) during his career.

During his 13-year tenure at JSH, Ditzel played a key role in the formation of the Susquehanna Valley Rural Health Partnership -- a unique alliance involving JSH, Bucktail Medical Center, Muncy Valley Hospital, and the Williamsport Hospital that allowed the partners to share information technology and identify health care priorities in the region. Since its formation in 2002, the rural health network -- the first in Pennsylvania to include three Critical Access Hospitals and a referral hospital -- has served as a national model for diffusing health information technology to rural hospitals.

Ditzel also spearheaded the implementation of an online Rural Performance Management (RPM) system among twelve of Pennsylvania’s thirteen Critical Access Hospitals. The RPM system -- recognized widely as one of the leading rural hospital performance measurement tools -- allows hospitals to manage individual hospital strategy and monitor performance, compare their performance among peers and share best practices.

“Lou Ditzel recognized that, in order for health care to improve in north-central Pennsylvania, health care providers in the region needed to work together and use information technology as a means to improve the quality of care being provided to residents of the area,” said Larry Baronner, PORH’s critical access hospital coordinator.

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Last Updated October 14, 2010