July 2015




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Logo for the MN Rural Health Conference

June 29-30, Duluth, MN

A record 600+ participants attended the Minnesota Rural Health Conference this year. Thank you to all for making it such a success!

To access 2015 session presentations and sign up for email updates on the 2016 conference, visit the Minnesota Rural Health Conference website.


2015 Minnesota Rural Health Awards
Congratulations to the 2015 Rural Health Award winners! Maureen D. Ideker, a longtime leader in bringing telehealth services to rural Minnesota communities, received the 2015 Minnesota Rural Health Hero Award. The Board of Directors of the Angel Fund, a volunteer-run organization supporting individuals with cancer in numerous communities on the Iron Range, received the 2015 Minnesota Rural Health Team Award. Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations, and to our review committee. Please consider submitting a nomination next year for your rural health hero or rural health team.

Sen. Franken's Rural Health Report
Senator Al Franken (D-Minn), Co-Chair of the U.S. Senate's bipartisan Rural Health Caucus, released his rural health report at the 2015 Minnesota Rural Health Conference. The report shares findings from his six-month, 28-city "Rural Health Tour" that included roundtable discussions with rural health providers, patients and local officials in dozens of communities across the state.

Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (Flex) Grant Award
On June 23-24, State Flex Coordinators gathered for a Flex Grant Program Reverse Site Visit in Bethesda, MD. While there, the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) celebrated some Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project (MBQIP) successes and held an inaugural awards ceremony to acknowledge the quality improvement efforts of Flex Grant Program Coordinators and the Critical Access Hospitals in their states. The award categories are as follows: FORHP State Quality Rankings; Most Improved Participation; Performance Improvement; Consistently High Performance; and the Spirit Award. Minnesota received the FORHP State Quality Ranking Award that indicates a statewide commitment to Critical Access Hospital quality reporting and performance.

Health Workforce Snapshot


2014 Survey of rural clinics and hospitals in Minnesota:
Do you face challenges in recruiting or retaining nurse practitioners?

Recruiting or retaining MN nurse practitioners, 2014: 82 MN rural clinics were surveyed. 33% said it was a challenge to recruit nurse practitioners. 67% said no, it was not a challenge. 21% of the clinics said it was a challenge to retain nurse practitioners. 79% said no, it was not a challenge to retain nurse practitioners. 44 MN Critical Access Hospitals were surveyed. 30% said it was a challenge to recruit nurse practitioners. 70% said no, it was not a challenge. 24% of the clinics said it was a challenge to retain nurse practitioners. 76% said no, it was not a challenge to retain nurse practitioners.

Source: MDH survey of Minnesota rural clinics and Critical Access Hospitals, October 2014.

In late 2014, the Rural Health Advisory Committee conducted a survey of Minnesota rural clinics and hospitals regarding nurse practitioners (NPs). Asked about challenges in recruitment and retention of NPs, roughly one in three of the facilities reported recruitment challenges and one in four difficulties with retention. The most common challenges were rural location and the lack of amenities associated with it, such as job opportunities for spouses and housing, and long commuting distances for more isolated sites. Other challenges were the common rural requirement that NPs be on call for emergency department or other hospital hours, comparatively lower pay, and lack of experience in rural settings.

Surveys were sent to 402 Minnesota rural health care sites, including all 79 of the state’s Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) (60 percent response rate), its 87 federally certified Rural Health Clinics (40 percent response rate) and 236 other rural clinics (21 percent response rate). The majority of those filling out the surveys were from facility administration: hospital administrators, clinic managers, directors of nursing, and human resources staff.

More about this survey will be available in an upcoming RHAC Issue Brief. For more information, contact Darcy Dungan-Seaver at 651-201-3855.



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Medical Education and Research Costs (MERC) grant program
The Minnesota Department of Health released $57.1 million from the Medical Education and Research Costs (MERC) grant program to sponsoring institutions in April 2015. Funding arrived at clinical training facilities throughout Minnesota at the end of June. The purpose of MERC is to fund a portion of the cost for clinical training for specific professions in Minnesota. Funding comes from several sources, including cigarette tax revenue, federal Medicaid matching funds and a carve out of medical education funds from the Prepaid Medical Assistance Program (PMAP).

MDH STD/HIV/TB Section new Request for Proposal (RFP)
The STD/HIV/TB Section at MDH just released an RFP for chlamydia activities. It is designed to fund creative, new, innovative ideas – not existing programs/projects – that will align with goals in three strategic areas: Raising Community Awareness; Education in Communities (working with schools, youth outside of schools and parents/caregivers); and Affordable and Accessible STI/STD Services. Staff are working to reach out broadly to people outside of the medical field for this opportunity. Applications are due Thursday, July 30.

MDH State Innovation Model (SIM)
MDH is requesting proposals in support of the Minnesota Accountable Health Model Community Engagement Initiatives, with the goal of developing community capacity to use and disseminate stories that support local health innovation and integration efforts. Proposals are due Monday, August 3.


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The Platinum Educational Group announced its inaugural Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Scholarships Program this year. It consists of two scholarships of $1000 each and is intended to provide EMS students assistance with their educational funding. View the scholarship details and application. The application is due Friday, July 17.

Rural Healthcare Program of The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust announced a funding opportunity to support the replacement of computed tomography (CT) scanners at Critical Access Hospitals in the upper Midwest. The initiative will commit $4 million dollars this year to help qualifying Critical Access Hospitals serving rural areas purchase new, 32 slice or higher CT scanners. The Trust has issued an open request for proposals. A Letter of Inquiry is due Friday, July 17.

The Association of Family Practice Physician Assistants awards the Jim Meeks Student Scholarship to two physician assistant students who display a commitment to family practice and rural health. The application is due by Tuesday, September 1.

The Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) provides grants for programs in rural communities served by the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA). The foundation supports organizations and projects that fit into the following grant categories: business development, community development, education, and telecommunications. The application is due Thursday, October 1.


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Interested in discussing population health and the interface between health care delivery and public health practice? The Centers for Public Health Education and Practice at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health is looking to have a group discussion with community health and primary care leaders (including FQHCs, community health clinics, rural health centers, and other community-based primary care providers) on these topics. The overarching goals are to begin a dialog about experiences, foster or extend relationships between primary care and public health, and inform future education and training opportunities. The exact format, setting, and date of the discussion(s) will be determined by the group, with the aim of holding them between mid-July and mid-August. If you would like to learn more about this project or to sign up to participate, please contact Louise Stenberg at or 612-624-8470.

The Carolina Geriatric Education Center (CGEC) has an online Spanish version of the Falls Prevention Course for Community Health Workers. The course is based on the National Council on Aging curriculum which was developed in partnership with the Paraprofessional Health Institute (PHI). This course is free under the current CGEC grant.  

HealthLandscape's customizable Population Health Mapper show county-level data for issues related to population health, including health status, healthcare services, health behaviors, demographics, socio-economic factors, and the physical environment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Community Health Improvement (CHI) Navigator is an online tool to help people who lead or participate in CHI work within hospitals, health systems, public health, and other community organizations. Tools include a Database of Interventions and CHI Navigator resources.

Minnesota Public Health Data Access Portal has released new interactive maps of asthma data for Minnesota counties and for ZIP codes in the 7-county Metropolitan Area. The map shows areas that have higher rates of asthma hospitalizations, as well as poverty rates for those ZIP codes and counties.



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Kruse brought passion and unique skills to Open Door. Longtime health-care administrator Sarah Kruse stepped down as CEO of Open Door Health Center in Mankato to focus on her position as professor at Minnesota State University. The Open Door welcomes their new CEO, Doug Jaeger.

Recently, the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) announced its slate of 2015 Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals, selecting overall “Top 20 Winners” and “Top 20 Best Practice Recipients” in the areas of Quality, Patient Satisfaction and Financial Stability. Two Minnesota hospitals were honored: New Ulm Medical Center, New Ulm, MN, Toby Freier, CEO, with the "Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals Award"; and Prairie Ridge Hospital and Health Services, Elbow Lake, MN, Jim Gingerich, CEO, with the "Best Practice Recipients - Quality" Award.

Over the past few weeks you may have seen billboards promoting the message “Ask About Aspirin”. These billboards are on display across Minnesota as part of an initiative being launched by the Minnesota Heart Health Program. The goals of the initiative are to encourage the public to ask their healthcare professional if aspirin may be right for them and to encourage healthcare professionals to recommend a daily low-dose aspirin to appropriate patients. The population most at risk for a first heart attack or stroke is men ages 45-79 and women ages 55-79. Although daily low-dose aspirin has been proven to lower rates of a first heart attack or stroke, only one in three people at risk in Minnesota use it. For more information, go to the University of Minnesota's Ask About Aspirin website.

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Toward a new narrative: How the Center for Small Towns crafts a different rural story (MinnPost).
Economic composition of greater Minnesota: Industries and performance (University of Minnesota Extension).

Disparities in individuals' access and use of health IT in 2013 (The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology).
A dentist visit via video can save rural kids' teeth (KBIA Mid-Missouri Public Radio).
Why the disconnect between care coordination, health IT? (American Academy of Family Physicians News).

Health Reform
Affordable Care Act initiative supports care coordination in rural areas (The CMS Blog).

Readmission location linked to post-surgical mortality rates (HealthLeaders Media).
They´re called "Critical Access Hospitals" for a reason (HealthLeaders Media).

New dermatology clinic in the Twin Ports aims to ease doctor shortage (Duluth News-Tribune).
Precarious future for primary care (The Boston Globe).

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ORHPC Staff News

Please join our office in welcoming Laura McLain as an analyst in the Health Workforce Data Analysis Program. Laura comes to us from Wilder Research, and she has previously worked at Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the Minnesota State Senate.

We are pleased to have two summer interns joining our office. Welcome Sagenda Daye and Madison Lea to the Workforce Analysis Unit. Sagenda just graduated from Community of Peace Academy and plans to pursue a degree in medicine. Madison just graduated from Twin Cities Academy High School and plans to pursue a career as a physician.

We are also pleased to welcome Gabrielle Morgenstern as a student worker in the Workforce Analysis Unit for the next year. Gabrielle just returned from studying abroad in the Netherlands and will be a senior at Macalaster in the fall.

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The Institute of Medicine's Roundtable webcast, Metrics that Matter for Population Health Action: A Workshop, will be held July 30, 8:30 a.m. PDT, 10:30 a.m. CDT.

The Twin Cities Medical Society and the MN Public Health Association present Healthiest State Summit: Reclaiming Minnesota's #1 Health Ranking on August 6 in St. Paul, MN.

Wellness in the Woods 3rd Annual Conference, Diversity in Wellness-Filling Up Your Recovery Toolbox, will be held September 12 in Little Falls, MN.

The Minnesota Network of Hospice and Palliative Care presents, Speaking of Being Mortal: A life-changing conversation with Dr. Atul Gawande, on September 18 in St. Paul, MN.

The 14th Rural Health Clinic and Critical Access Hospital Conferences will be September 29 – October 2 in Kansas City, MO.

Minnesota's 2015 Community Health Conference: Everyone, Every Day, Everywhere! will be held October 7-9 in Brainerd, MN.

The 3rd annual CALS Hospital Conference, Risks and Rewards in Rural Emergency Care, will be held October 9 in St. Paul, MN.



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Minnesota Office of Rural Health and Primary Care
P. O. Box 64882
St. Paul, Minnesota 55164-0882
Phone 651-201-3838
Toll free in Minnesota 800-366-5424
Fax: 651-201-3830

Our mission
To promote access to quality health care for all Minnesotans. We work as partners with policymakers, providers, and rural and underserved urban communities to ensure a continuum of core health services throughout the state.