WEST END – The Telluride Foundation recently received a federal grant for the planning necessary to create a Tri-County Health Alliance, a network of health care providers and facilities within the counties of Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel on the Western Slope of Colorado that covers over 4,000 square miles. Norwood’s Uncompahgre Medical Center and Naturita’s Basin Clinic will both benefit as Alliance members, as well as the Telluride Medical Center.
The Tri-County Health Alliance will address regional health care issues, unmet needs and help provide access to quality care for the low-income and indigent, uninsured and underinsured diverse population. The initial network members are the major health care stakeholders within a three-county region on the Western Slope of Colorado including: The Telluride Foundation’s Local Healthcare Initiative, Montrose Memorial Hospital, Basin Medical Clinic, Telluride Medical Center, Uncompahgre Medical Center, and Midwestern Colorado Mental Health Center. The Telluride Foundation received the Rural Health Network Development Planning Grant for $67,868 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Alliance was one of only 18 applicants across the country to receive a grant in this extremely competitive federal grant process.
“One of the great and unique opportunities of this grant is that a successful completion of this planning effort will allow the Alliance to apply for a large three-year implementation grant to fund projects identified in the planning effort,” said Telluride Foundation President Paul Major.
According to the Telluride Foundation, this rural tri-county area is an officially designated Health Professional Shortage Area. Colorado state healthcare experts refer to the Basin Medical Clinic as the most rural medical clinic in the state. Three of the participating clinics are classified as true “frontier clinics,” and they serve remote Western Slope rural populations with no alternative health care services within a 100-mile radius and a population density of four people per square mile.Because the network members currently do not have a collaborative working relationship, numerous gaps in coverage and scope of services exist. The network members have agreed to participate in a planning process to develop an integrated delivery structure, coordinate care utilizing existing services, and expand services to address unmet needs.
The network members plan to address the limited human and financial resources and a duplication of efforts and services within the tri-county area. Collaboratively, the Alliance can create an organized and purpose-driven structure, where all members work toward coordinating and sharing of resources and building a critical mass to support specialists and specialty services and programs. With a collaborative approach, funding can be pursued on a more significant level, which will have a direct impact on the communities served.
Additionally, the network members are interested in adopting a regional medical information sharing technology system. Although most of the members individually have been in discussion with Grand Junction-based Quality Health Network, a health information organization serving Colorado’s Western Slope, their efforts have been stalled due to lack of regional coordination, funding and/or infrastructure issues. QHN is a secured system designed to share patient clinical information between providers and was recently highlighted in an article in The New Yorker by Atul Gawande. The Alliance project would allow network members to organize efforts and develop a coordinated plan to be able to interface electronic health records.
Such a planning opportunity will make coordination among network members and expansion of integrated services possible. The Foundation has hired Minneapolis-based WIPFLi Consultants as facilitators to coordinate the needs and resources planning for members. The facilitators will also direct the development of a strategic plan and a business plan for the Tri-County Health Alliance.
For more information on the Tri-County Health Alliance or the Telluride Foundation, visit HYPERLINK "http://www.telluridefoundation.org/"www.telluridefoundation.org.