State hospital leader receives national quality spirit award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Larry Baronner, rural health systems manager and deputy director at the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH), received the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project Spirit Award on July 18 at a national meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, convened by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.

In 2011, the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy created the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project to promote high-quality care at rural hospitals with 25 beds or fewer. Low-volume hospitals participating in the project voluntarily report on a set of quality measures relevant to the care they provide, share data, and implement quality improvement initiatives. Currently, 98 percent of the 1,346 critical access hospitals (CAH) in the United States are reporting rural-relevant quality measures.  

Pennsylvania has 15 critical access hospitals that serve the most rural communities in the state. Pennsylvania was one of the very first states to achieve 100 percent reporting by critical access hospitals to the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project and is one of the few programs in the nation to have a staff member dedicated to quality improvement.

The nomination, submitted by Lannette Johnston, quality improvement coordinator at PORH, recognized Baronner for being a leading rural health care advocate since 2001, applying his diverse and extensive background in rural health to serve as an invaluable resource for health care transformation in Pennsylvania and across the nation. 

Johnston noted that when the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project was launched nationally, Baronner embraced the project’s framework and concepts, recognizing that the collection and reporting of a full complement of reliable data were necessary to increase the quality of care provided by the state’s critical access hospitals. He inspired CAH leadership to collect and report these data. Using the first set of data as a benchmark, Baronner identified areas of strength and need in the CAH program overall and with individual hospitals to drive quality improvement activities across the state. These data have been one of the hallmarks of the Pennsylvania CAH program.  

Baronner engaged consultants to work across the state and with individual critical access hospitals to increase areas of strength and address domains of need. As an extension of the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project, Baronner launched PORH’s population health database whereby critical access hospitals can access community data, identify areas of need, and implement programs to increase quality of care and patient outcomes. In addition to external assistance, he maximizes patient outcomes by providing the expertise and technical assistance needed to achieve long-term positive results in the state’s critical access hospitals. Baronner also has provided leadership to other states in meeting their quality benchmarks.  

“This is an incredible honor for Larry,” noted Lisa Davis, director of PORH and outreach associate professor of health policy and administration at Penn State. “He has been a leader in the state and nationally for quality reporting and improvement in rural hospitals and health systems. Our office is proud to have Larry as a member of our staff.”

PORH 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 the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is charged with being a source of coordination, technical assistance, networking, and partnership development.  

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's University Park campus. 

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Last Updated September 07, 2018