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Hamilton Memorial Hospital District (HMHD) has been awarded nearly $900,000 through the USDA’s Emergency Rural Health Care grant, significantly contributing to the costs of its Epic EHR implementation.
Hamilton Memorial Hospital District (HMHD) has received a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Emergency Rural Health Care Grant totaling $895,000.
“Being able to present this award in person is the best part of our day, of our week, of our month, and of our year. This is where we get to see all of the amazing things that you are doing with the grant funding. Rural Development’s mission is to improve the quality of life and economic opportunities for people in small towns,” said Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, USDA Illinois State Director.
During the announcement, the hospital also marks the construction completion of two additional, state-of-the-art, inpatient isolation environments. These newly renovated isolation patient rooms were a $345,000 project funded by Hamilton Memorial Hospital Foundation through community financial support and CARES Act Provider Relief Funds.
Both the USDA Emergency Rural Health Care Grant and new patient isolation rooms will assist the hospital in responding to the health needs of patients for years to come in the post-pandemic landscape. We all recall how access to care was difficult during the pandemic. In December 2021, as Illinois was seeing records for new COVID-19 cases, Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged hospitals to postpone non-emergency surgeries and other procedures to prepare for a likely surge of post-holiday omicron patients and for a potential shortage of staffed ICU beds.
The state and hospitals throughout Illinois kept trying to prevent the state’s healthcare infrastructure from being overwhelmed by the ongoing Omicron variant surge of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. Over the course of the pandemic, by working closely together, state and hospitals managed to prevent Illinois from exceeding hospital bed capacity, unlike other states.
Now, steps are being taken to facilitate better access to care for everyone, no matter the circumstances, and building additional isolation rooms in hospitals is part of the process.
“We are overwhelmingly grateful to have been selected as a recipient of the USDA Emergency Rural Health Care Grant and for our additional patient isolation rooms. With these funds, our Epic EMR allows for a one-stop clinical documentation platform – from the physician’s office for preventative or chronic care to the patient’s bedside locally, regionally, and even nationally. This integration and new construction of additional patient isolation rooms drastically improves the healthcare we are able to provide to our community,” said Victoria Woodrow, CEO of Hamilton Memorial Hospital District.
The Epic EMR has been made available to HMHD through an affiliation agreement with SSM Health. This group-purchase hosted solution of Epic EMR does not simply improve coordination of care between HMHD and SSM Health facilities, it also allows HMHD to seamlessly connect rural patient medical information with Epic EMR facilities everywhere.
“We collaborate closely with larger health systems because we rely on them for higher levels of care, patient transfers and specialty care that is sometimes unavailable locally – Epic allows for valuable clinical information to seamlessly follow the patient,” said Rodney Miller, M.D., Medical Staff President of Hamilton Memorial Hospital.
Care for rural patients has been a focus especially since the pandemic, with new companies trying to find solutions for this category’s access to care. Led by key executives who drove Livongo’s success, Homeward, a new company focused on improving access to high-quality, affordable primary and specialty care in rural communities, was launched in March 2022, with an initial $20 million investment from General Catalyst.
In August of last year, Homeward also announced its first value-based care partnership with Priority Health to deliver comprehensive care to Medicare Advantage members in rural Michigan. The company will use the new funds to accelerate expansion into new markets through value-based contracts with health plans.
More isolation environments in rural health care facilities are important given access to care difficulties the COVID-19 pandemic presented. But even before the pandemic, Rural Illinois was starting to use new and innovative technology to help advance their current healthcare models to provide better services for residents.With the conclusion of this major construction project, HMHD will offer four patient isolation rooms which allows the hospital to keep more patients close-to-home while ensuring the care environment is safe for patients and staff.
“Ultimately our hospital is merely the vehicle in which extraordinary health professionals care for their communities – thanks to the USDA, Hamilton Memorial Foundation, and our SSM Health colleagues we now have these state-of-the-art tools to assist our amazing staff in caring for and improving lives,” stated Wayne Morris, Board of Directors President of Hamilton Memorial Hospital.
To guarantee a smooth EHR implementation, over 40 IT professionals and clinicians from SSM Health collaborated closely with HMHD. SSM Health is a non-profit, Catholic health system that operates 23 hospitals across four states, including Illinois.