The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded a Quality Improvement Award of $53,000 to Winding Waters Community Health Center in Enterprise. Winding Waters is one of only 30 community health centers in Oregon, including OHSU, recognized by these national awards. HRSA is the primary federal agency for improving health care to people who are geographically isolated, and economically or medically vulnerable. The Quality Improvement Awards recognize the highest performing health centers nationwide.

“I think it’s well deserved,” said Winding Waters CEO Nic Powers. “It’s very much a result of the hard work our staff does to improve the health of our community.”

Winding Waters’ award recognized extraordinary improvements and achievements in four categories.

Clinical Quality Improvers: Community Health Clinics that demonstrated at least 15% improvement on a clinical quality measure from 2017 to 2018. “That award looks at metrics such as cancer screening rate, the rate of people or patients with controlled diabetes, and hypertension control rate,” Powers said.

Access Enhancer Awards recognized health centers that increased the total number of patients served and the number of patients receiving comprehensive services between 2017 and 2018.

Advancing Health Information Technology recognized health centers that utilized five services and/or telehealth services to increase access to care and advance quality of care between 2017 and 2018.

Patient Centered Medical Home Recognition recognized health centers with patient centered medical home (PCMH) recognition in one or more delivery sites.

“We have broad discretion on how to use the funds as long as it improves quality of care,” Powers said. “Some funds may be used to add staff time and improve our telehealth services.” Telehealth services are “virtual” visits, or teleconference consultations, and typically are follow-up appointments, Powers noted.

These virtual visits can be cost effective and save a lot of travel. “We had a patient in Imnaha River Woods who had some pretty serious health concerns,” Powers said. “We saved him and his family a long drive to Enterprise by just doing a video visit. I think that was really cost effective, and I know they appreciated it. This kind of technology can assure that the patient’s health is better and everyone’s costs are reduced.”

While the grant funds can be used in any manner that will continue to improve the quality of care at Winding Waters, Powers noted three areas where the funds might help most.

“We want to improve our staff capacity to do the work of quality improvement — that might include more staff time, and more staff training,” Powers said. “Two other important fields for people who live in Wallowa County are hypertension and diabetes. We will focus on better quality care for patients. Especially those who have these conditions. It’s very important to us to help folks manage their lives and medications so they have a good quality of life.”

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