News Seth Stratton | 2 years ago

Saving Rural Healthcare in Anson County

The way people choose, receive and even pay for healthcare continues to change. Some communities across the Carolinas – and across the country – struggle to get the care they need. 

For those living in rural areas, far from access to big-city hospitals or specialists, keeping up with medications, managing chronic disease or even finding ways to stay healthy, can be difficult. Here, we take a look at what is happening in Anson County, where quality medical care remains available to its 27,000 residents.

THE FACE OF RURAL HEALTHCARE TODAY

Myrtle, a 73-year-old Anson County woman, has high blood pressure and diabetes. She has a hard time paying for her medications and often goes without. In one year, she visited the hospital emergency room 14 times – most of these visits were for non-emergency conditions. But not anymore. Myrtle hasn’t visited the emergency room in more than three months. She now has a primary care physician to help her control her diabetes and blood pressure. She gets free transportation to and from her doctor’s appointments and uses a pharmacy assistance program to buy her medicine. She is an example of how data, technology, extensive planning, creative thinking and targeted care came together in Anson County to deliver healthcare in a new way. We want to make a difference in the health and well-being not only for Myrtle but also of the community where she lives, and to let people in rural areas know they are not forgotten when it comes to having access to quality medical care. Anson County is home to nearly 27,000 residents, many struggling with the same conditions as folks in other parts of the country – diabetes, heart and respiratory disease, cancer, and obesity. Like many of its neighboring counties, Anson’s industrial base is small. However, residents point to the revitalization of downtown Wadesboro as a way of saying they haven’t given up on making the county live up to its motto: “A Great Place to Call Home.” The town is far enough away from Charlotte to maintain its rural charm, but not close enough to emergency care if the community hospital had closed down. For more than 100 years, Anson Community Hospital honorably served its residents, but healthcare – from choosing it, to accessing it, to paying for it – is changing. As part of that change, Carolinas HealthCare System set out on a plan to reshape the future. The future began in July 2014, when Carolinas HealthCare System Anson, a first-of-its-kind facility in North Carolina, opened in Wadesboro, and just celebrated a successful first year in operation – surpassing expectations of hospital officials. “It’s been a great year here in Anson County,” said Gary Henderson, assistant vice president of Carolinas HealthCare System Anson. “Communities like us need new care models that are focused more on preventive and primary care and less focused on in-patient and sick care." The success is particularly noteworthy since during this year, 14 rural hospitals across the country closed and one mayor of a small North Carolina town again walked 273 miles to Washington, DC, to highlight what is happening to America’s disappearing small town hospitals. Anson County can proudly point to its new $20 million outpatient facility as the future of healthcare. “We now have a more patient-friendly approach, helping our residents with wellness, disease prevention and disease management,” said Henderson. CHS Anson_1  

NEW MODEL OF CARE

Carolinas HealthCare System Anson has an emergency department and a primary care physician office together in what is being called a “medical home.” The focus is on finding a primary care provider for the patient, helping the patient prevent diseases or conditions before they become out-of-control and building a relationship between the patient and the person providing care.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR PATIENTS?

It’s simple. A patient needs medical care and heads to Carolinas HealthCare System Anson. The patient is then asked questions about their condition, and  treated as an emergency case or sent to the primary care office within the facility. A patient navigator guides the patient through the process and connects her to community services – transportation, prescription help or a follow-up from another health professional. However, once the patient leaves they are not forgotten. The care team at Anson follows up with the patient; gauging their ability to following instructions, administer medication properly, and if they are in need of additional help. It’s a community helping take care of a community, and it’s working. Over the past year, Carolinas HealthCare System has had a significant impact in Anson County:
  • Hundreds of residents received free screenings for blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol from a mobile unit that traveled across Anson.
  • Certified Mental Health First Aid trainers provided education and training in 10 churches and to more than 70 school principals, administrators and staff.
  • Athletic trainers were placed in Anson high schools and reached 3,900 students.
  • Hundreds in 16 faith communities were reached through education outreach.

COMING UP …

In part 2 of our 3-part series, we take a closer look at the "medical home" care model.