Pennsylvania small rural hospital program receives excellence award

August 11, 2016

For the second year in a row, the Pennsylvania Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program received the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project (MBQIP) Certificate of Excellence Award in recognition of outstanding critical access hospital (CAH) state quality reporting and performance.

The award was presented on July 20 at the annual Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program Meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, and was given by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Lawrence Baronner, rural health systems manager and deputy director at the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH), accepted the award on behalf of the state’s CAHs.

In addition to Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin were honored.

MBQIP is a quality improvement activity under the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility grant program of FORHP. The goal of MBQIP is to improve the quality of care provided in CAHs by increasing quality data reporting by CAHs and then driving quality improvement activities based on the data. MBQIP is a voluntary reporting system that includes quality and satisfaction measures from CMS Hospital Compare plus a CAH-specific Emergency Department Transfer Communication measure set. Pennsylvania was one of the first four states to have 100 percent participation in MBQIP.

The Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program was established through the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, the Balanced Budget Refinement Act, the Benefits Improvement and Protection Act, and the Medicare Modernization Act. This program improves access to preventive and emergency health care services for rural populations. Providing federal grant funding to eligible states, the program requires states to address rural health network development and directs significant effort into designating CAHs, which are small hospitals (25-beds or less) in rural counties that serve high Medicare, low income and uninsured populations. Pennsylvania has 14 CAHs.

“The Quality Improvement Directors in our critical access hospitals have worked hard to demonstrate that the care provided in our rural hospitals is equal to or better than the care provided in larger facilities for the services they provide,” Baronner said. “They are commended for their commitment to providing high quality health care to the rural populations they serve.”

PORH was formed in 1991 as a joint partnership between the federal government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Penn State. The office is one of 50 state offices of rural health in the nation funded under a program administered by FORHP and is charged with being a source of coordination, technical assistance, and networking; partnership development; and assisting in the recruitment and retention of health care providers. 

PORH provides expertise in the areas of rural health, agricultural health and safety, and community and economic development. PORH is administratively housed in the Department of Health Policy and Administration in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State University Park. 

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Last Updated August 12, 2016