Open Mics with Dr. Stites 5-24-23: Improving Health Care for Rural America

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Jill Chadwick

News Director

Office: (913) 588-5013

Cell: (913) 223-3974


Kansas City, Kan- The University of Kansas Health System is treating a total of 16 COVID patients today, 18 yesterday. Other significant numbers:

•           3 with the active virus today, 5 yesterday

•           0 in ICU, 0 yesterday

•           0 on a ventilator, 0 yesterday

Key points from today’s guests:

Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer, The University of Kansas Health System

  • The isolation of rural towns isn't a bad thing -- it's part of the appeal of rural life to many people.
  • But it can be a huge obstacle in health care. Rural patients often have to drive hours for basic medical care, not to mention specialized care, in some Kansas counties.
  • Patients in rural America still deserve and should have high quality care today.
  • Telemedicine in small towns in Kansas is huge. It really is the way to bridge gaps and really make distances disappear in terms of how we're able to connect those patients to specialists and subspecialists.
  • There are exciting new developments in terms of what we're able to do and how we're able to connect patients across distances as a result of the continued focus on improving broadband in rural areas across the state and more physicians and providers willing to engage with technology.  

Jodi Schmidt, executive director, The Care Collaborative, The University of Kansas Health System

  • As the former CEO of a rural hospital, this is an issue of delivering the same high quality care but with fewer resources.
  • It's just the reality that we face in rural communities -- the distances that we have to go for that next level of care.
  • The Care Collaborative was launched in 2014 through a CMS Innovation Award where they provided funding to really demonstrate how could we take the expertise of our academic medical center out into the rural communities to both improve quality and reduce total cost of care.
  • This is done through our “boot camps” where Dr. Moser and our team go out into a rural community and share the same type of protocols that we use here at the academic medical center that our providers helped develop, but they're made to fit a rural environment and the resources that fit a rural environment.
  • Working together, we can deliver the same quality care across the state, no matter what rural areas patients live in.

Dr. Bob Moser, executive director, Kansas Center for Rural Health

  • One of the most important things was how quickly our rural practices adopted those protocols and improved their numbers for patient care.
  • It’s been important to move medical school students out into the rural setting to get exposure to what the practice of medicine was like.
  • And then back in the late 70s, the Kansas Medical Student Loan Program was created to help offset the cost of medical education, which is a big hurdle for a lot of students that look at health as a career.
  • Creating the Rural Scholars Program looks at how can we identify students from rural communities with an interest in medicine and get them in on an early pathway toward admission to medical school as sophomores in college and that also has been a great success story.
  • In 2011, we expanded the four-year medical campus to Wichita and to Salina in addition to Kansas City so that we could increase enrollment and continue to attract students with an interest in primary care to stay in Kansas practice in rural areas.
  • Last week, he received a Career Achievement Award from the National Rural Health Association.

Dr. Michael Kennedy, family medicine physician, The University of Kansas Health System

  • One of the first things he did when he started as the dean for Rural Health at the School of Medicine was to open an office for Rural Health Education and through that office, they revisited many programs that were dispersed in various departments throughout the university.
  • There was a small program with just a few students and then they expanded that to 40 students at its peak, where the students went out for the summer between their first and second year and did a rural experience within a small town.
  • They continued to expand the various programs and went from 400 student weeks per year in rural settings to over 1000 student weeks per year.
  • It is a challenge to attract doctors to work in rural settings, but there are some incentives to encourage them to have successful careers in small towns.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director, infection & prevention control, The University of Kansas Health System

  • The hope is that we’ll stay at these low COVID levels during the summer season.
  • The World Health Organization is suggesting that the next COVID booster should be a monovalent to target an Omicron variant.
  • The scientific community continues to monitor for new variants.

Thursday, May 25 at 8 a.m. is the next Morning Medical Update. It's like brain surgery without an incision. Learn more about how focused ultrasound is changing lives for patients with tremors.

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