For Immediate Release: The Arkansas Rural Health Partnership receives 2.2. million dollars to support rural South Arkansas Delta hospitals through new certificate and degree programs in healthcare administrative support.
Lake Village, AR- The ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate problems faced by Arkansas Delta residents as many have fallen out of care, struggle with medication adherence, poor mental health, and heightened food and housing insecurity. As inflation lingers, residents are grappling to maintain basic needs. Meanwhile, burnout and competition for scarce talent has dwindled the number of locally-available healthcare workforce to serve rural residents. Losing a single nurse in a critical access hospital can be detrimental, closing hospital beds in short supply and sending patients outside of the area for needed care.Vacancies in administrative support roles further exacerbate these concerns as revenue is missed due to poor documentation, the lack of skilled individuals to bill and code services correctly, and managers to ensure that the workload is manageable and healthcare staff feel supported in a way that helps to ensure retention. Rural Delta communities cannot afford to lose their rural hospitals and clinics, often the most stable source of employment and one of the only sources of healthcare services in the local area.
While the need for qualified healthcare staff persists, community members are often unaware of existing vacancies and opportunities for employment. Once individuals gain interest in new health workforce training programs, there is a very real and present financial need in order to engage in training. Time constraints, exacerbated by child care shortages and the need to continue working to support themselves or their families, means that many students do not have the luxury of enrolling in a traditional certificate or degree program. Potential students need a flexible school schedule and an online training environment in order to add certificate and degree programs into their very full lives without adding the cost of missed work or expensive transportation to the mix.
In response to the identified persistent challenges and needs in the region and generous HRSA/FORHP funding, ARHP will soon launch a training program to support new participants/trainees and the healthcare organizations that will hire them upon successful program completion. Trainees/participants will be provided financial support (covering tuition/fees, laptop, paid apprenticeships), as well as a flexible schedule. Course material will be provided exclusively online, with rolling admission and classes that begin at the start of each month. An experienced Career Counselor (also provided through ARHP) will support students through certificate/degree completion. Healthcare organizations (ARHP hospitals) will then offer employment to individuals successfully completing the program. As a result, healthcare organizations will experience new capacity to hire and employ skilled (local) administrative support professionals that decrease the amount of missed and/or lost revenue due to lack of knowledge, omission, or error. These newly trained hires will directly support and strengthen the bottom line of these hospitals: keeping the doors open to locally available healthcare services, a critical concern for many as rural hospital closures threaten rural communities nationwide.
The proposed project has been designed to meet critical health workforce in structure gaps of participating ARHP Delta hospital members and increase equity for Arkansas Delta residents to accessible, affordable certification and degree programs in health administration support careers. Proposed program tracks (Medical Coding and Billing, Health Information Management, Clinical Documentation, and Business Operations for Healthcare Organizations) will produce trained, skilled healthcare administrative staff whose work will directly impact the financial viability and sustainability of rural health organizations. For many rural communities within the service area, these healthcare organizations are some of the largest and most stable places of employment and may offer some of the only available healthcare services in the community. As a result, the project impacts the health, wellness, and quality of life of rural residents, as well as supports local rural economies. On a larger scale, healthy and thriving healthcare systems are able to recruit and retain healthcare professionals, preventing the outward migration of skilled workers.
“We want to thank the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA)/Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) for the opportunity to lay down the next set of tracks in the health workforce pipeline that we have the privilege of building together in rural south Arkansas. The future of healthcare in our region is bright due to the continued investment of local, state, and national partners,” shared Mellie Bridewell, ARHP President & Founder. The four-year grant-funded program will launch this September. For more information about this training program or other ARHP health workforce pipeline initiatives, visit arruralhealth.org.
About the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership
Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (ARHP) is a non-profit healthcare organization headquartered in Lake Village, Arkansas. ARHP members currently include 16 rural hospitals, 2 federally-qualified health centers, and 3 medical teaching institutions. Initiatives aim to improve the health and wellness of rural residents, build a health workforce pipeline, sustain rural hospitals, and strengthen rural economies. The organization is the largest healthcare service provider in South Arkansas and serves as a hub for economic growth and development across the region and a voice for rural health entities across the state of Arkansas.