In Seattle, Senior Leader Shares Rural Pop Health Advancements

Oct. 12, 2022
At the Healthcare Innovation Pacific Northwest Summit, the director of innovation at Summit Pacific Medical Center shared advancements in population health and what’s next for the rural medical center

On Tuesday, October 11 at the Healthcare Innovation Pacific Northwest Summit at the Grand Hyatt in Seattle, Jennifer Brackeen, director of innovation at the Elma, Wash.-based Summit Pacific Medical Center participated in a fireside chat with Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland entitled, “On the Leading Edge: The Role of SDOH Strategies in Population Health.”

Brackeen explained that the rural Summit Pacific Medical Center is located in one of the sickest communities in the state. The payer mix, she said, is 75 percent Medicaid/Medicare and 25 percent commercial, with a small percentage of “other.” She added that there is limited primary care access in the community as well as specialty care and that there is a high prevalence of chronic disease, high obesity, and limited behavioral healthcare.

Hagland inquired about Summit’s population health strategy. “We started three years ago, before that we didn’t have population health program,” Brackeen said. “We developed a population health and innovation department.”

As for what advancements Summit has made so far, Brackeen commented, “One of the coolest projects is the work we’re doing with education services and the local school, implementing a school-based health center. Being able to go to where patients are, and access care is really important.”

She added that Summit partners with payer Amerigroup. Further, she explained, the school nurse works with patients to listen to lungs, get a blood pressure reading, etc. while the provider can be at home and take the visit [via telehealth].

Initiatives like these, are not without their challenges, though. “Part of the problem,” Brackeen noted, “is that rural people don’t like change. It takes a while to say, ‘This is OK, this works.’ Building trust is huge and we have a lot of momentum around patient education, working with patients and connecting with different partners—getting dental screenings, wellness visits, and school sports physicals.”

Brackeen said that Summit is working to increase access and shift the culture to where health is a priority and will continue to build that for the other schools in the community. “One of the challenges in rural communities is a lack of understanding of how to prioritize health,” she commented.

To conclude the discussion, Hagland asked Brackeen what was next. Brackeen excitedly explained that the “Summit Shuttle” arrived that day. The shuttle will pick up patients and get them to appointments, regardless of if they are they Summit appointments or not. When asked about the senior community, she said that the senior center will be hosting meetings on how to pick the right foods. The chief nursing officer of Summit will be going to the center and explaining how to shop at the grocery store and implementing cooking classes. Additionally, Summit is piloting a subscription box for food that can be picked up on a weekly basis that includes recipes for chronic disease management—the progress on this initiative will be measured over the course of a year to see if it made a meaningful impact.

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