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Rural COVID-19 Innovations: Helping Healthcare Providers

Examples of innovative ways communities and organizations are helping healthcare providers stay safe and deliver care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Ordering and delivering personal protective equipment to rural healthcare facilities
    Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming
    July 15, 2020 - In a campaign called Heart4Heroes, rural healthcare facilities complete order requests for PPE through the nonprofit Project C.U.R.E., which has seven warehouses across the country and connections with PPE vendors. Project C.U.R.E. fulfills the orders, and then Angel Flight volunteers fly the PPE to those facilities. In Colorado alone, the initiative has delivered over 250,000 pieces of PPE to 30 rural hospitals, and the Heart4Heroes website lists a total number of over 2.1 million pieces delivered. People, businesses, and other organizations can donate money or PPE to Heart4Heroes.
    Source: Benjamin Anderson, Vice President for Rural Health and Hospitals, Colorado Hospital Association
  • Helpline for healthcare workers and community members
    North Carolina
    May 18, 2020 - The Hope4Healers Helpline (919.226.2002) provides resilience and mental health support to healthcare workers and their families experiencing stress from responding to COVID-19. This helpline is available 24/7, and callers will receive follow-up from a volunteer licensed behavioral health professional. The 24/7 Hope4NC Helpline (1.855.587.3463), previously used for hurricane relief efforts, is now available for every North Carolina county.
    Source: Glenn D. Field, Community Development Specialist, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
  • Creating an online version of a hands-on proficiency demonstration for certification
    Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee
    April 23, 2020 - Fast Pace Health, with 113 clinics across four states, developed a way to complete a hands-on Proficiency Demonstration component in a virtual, real-time environment instead of in person. The hands-on component is required by the Department of Transportation in order to be certified as a urine drug screen collector or breath alcohol test technician.
    Source: Dana Keeton, Learning & Development Partner, Fast Pace Health
  • Council encouraging healthcare professionals to write about COVID-19's effect on miners
    New Mexico
    April 21, 2020 - The Mining Advisory Council of the Southwest Mining Health Center for Interdisciplinary Collaboration for Miners' Health and Safety is working to raise awareness of the effects of COVID-19 on mining populations, since these groups may already have compromised lungs. Specifically, the Council helps rural professionals and trainees write perspectives on COVID-19 and miners. One such article that's resulted from this effort is Caring for Miners During the Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.
    Source: Gail Nowosadko, Outreach Clinic Coordinator, Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program (RESEP)
  • Grant to help hospitals offer or reimburse child care for their employees
    April 21, 2020 - The Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation (ILCHF) awarded a $500,000 grant to the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network (ICAHN). This funding will help hospitals reimburse costs for opening a childcare center for their employees, working with another organization to open a childcare center, or helping employees cover childcare costs. Over 30 ICAHN members are participating in this grant.
    Source: ILCHF, ICAHN Offer $500,000 to Essential Hospital Workers for Child Care, Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network
  • Online platform to serve and protect first responders
    North Carolina
    April 20, 2020 - Buncombe County launched the online platform Community Connect, in which community members can create accounts and provide information about their homes to better serve first responders (such as home layout, emergency contacts, number of residents and pets, and any special needs or medical conditions requiring accommodation). While the platform was planned before the coronavirus outbreak – Asheville piloted the platform in 2019 – Community Connect added an option for residents to indicate if anyone in their household has tested positive for COVID-19 or is considered high-risk.
  • Helping healthcare employees transition into new roles
    April 17, 2020 - Daviess Community Hospital in Washington, Indiana, has implemented a COVID-19 hotline, employee screenings, and community screenings. These new projects have led to a shift in employees' roles and schedules. Operating room nurses answer the 24-hour hotline, and the screening locations are run by therapists, athletic trainers, registered nurses, and licensed practical nurses (LPNs). The hospital is also providing cross-training to employees to help them transition into new roles.
    Source: Angie Steiner, Director of Business Development/Marketing, Daviess Community Hospital
  • Tele-dentistry protocols and resources
    April 16, 2020 - The nonprofit Virginia Health Catalyst developed a protocol to help providers conduct tele-dentistry visits with patients who don't have the needed technology at home, by having the patient drive to the clinic's parking lot and receive equipment and assistance from a staff member (wearing protective equipment) to complete the tele-appointment in their vehicle. In addition, Virginia Health Catalyst has created a COVID-19 Resources page and a Crisis Teledentistry Implementation Guide, complete with implementation steps, a tele-dentistry Dos and Don'ts list, and billing updates for Virginia Medicaid.
    Source: McAllister Castelaz, Dental Director, Ivor Dental Center – Horizon Health Services, Inc.; Sarah Holland, CEO, Virginia Health Catalyst
  • Tele-mentoring rural providers caring for miners
    New Mexico
    April 16, 2020 - Due to the pandemic, spirometry training courses and annual conferences related to lung diseases have been postponed. To help fill this gap in knowledge, the Miners' Wellness TeleECHO (Extension for Community Health Outcomes) program creates a virtual community of practice to help rural providers treat patients with mining-related diseases.
    Source: Akshay Sood, Miners' Colfax Medical Center Endowed Chair in Mining-Related Lung Diseases, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center
  • Making PPE and test swabs for rural clinics and a local health department
    North Carolina
    April 14, 2020 - UNC-Chapel Hill medical students, the Mountain Area Health Education Center, and local manufacturers with 3D printers are making personal protective equipment like face shields for rural clinics and a local health department in the western part of the state. The group also received a local grant to make test swabs.
  • Protecting hospital staff while preserving PPE
    April 8, 2020 - King's Daughters Medical Center (KDMC) in Brookhaven prepared for a surge of COVID-19 patients, since it's located two hours north of New Orleans, which has been hard-hit. In preparation, KDMC dedicated one floor to COVID-19 patients and will place intravenous (IV) poles and pumps outside of patients' isolation rooms so that staff can change IV fluids without having to put on personal protective equipment (PPE).
    Source: Rural Hospital Shifts Operations in Anticipation of COVID-19 Surge, American Hospital Association case study
  • Facilitating donations/sales of personal protection equipment (PPE)
    April 2, 2020 - The Graduate Medical Education Consortium of Southwest Virginia (GMEC) and Virginia Rural Health Association (VRHA) asked construction companies, nail salons, tattoo parlors, other businesses and industries, and laypeople to donate or sell PPE so GMEC and VRHA can deliver these supplies to healthcare providers. So far, the two organizations have been able to deliver supplies to three hospitals, four residency programs, and many other Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics.
    Source: Wendy Welch, Executive Director, Graduate Medical Education Consortium of Southwest Virginia
  • Free telehealth services for physicians
    April 1, 2020 - Rural physicians or physicians treating rural patients in Georgia can access six free months of a new telehealth consultation software, thanks to the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center and the Georgia Partnership for Telehealth (GPT). Patients can access GPT's telehealth system through a computer, tablet, or smart phone. Interested physicians in the state can contact the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center at 478.301.4700 or to get more information or enroll.
    Source: Stephanie M. Basey, Director of Training, Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center
  • Shared purchasing for unaffiliated clinics to get personal protection equipment (PPE)
    April 1, 2020 - The Virginia Rural Health Association (VRHA) worked with PPE vendors to place one large order of PPE for 30 small clinics that were not affiliated with a large healthcare system. VRHA staff then deliver PPE to these clinics across the state.
    Source: Beth O'Connor, Executive Director, Virginia Rural Health Association
  • Making gowns for hospital employees
    March 27, 2020 - Houlton Regional Hospital employees made washable, reusable gowns for coworkers by creating a pattern from an existing gown, buying fabric to sew a new gown, and cutting the tops off crew socks to attach to the ends of sleeves to make cuffs.
  • Businesses making healthcare supplies
    March 26, 2020 - In an effort led by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, many manufacturers and distributors have shifted business models to make healthcare supplies. The Rural Georgia Initiatives division has reported rural breweries and distilleries making hand sanitizer, a laser-cutting business retooling its machines to cut fabric for masks, and universities and colleges donating excess medical supplies.