Pennsylvania Rural Hospital Leader Receives National Quality Spirit Award

University Park, Pa. – Larry Baronner, rural healthsystems manager and deputy director at the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH), received the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project (MBQIP) Spirit Award on July 18, 2018 at a national meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, convened by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP).

In 2011, FORHP, created MBQIP to promote high quality care at rural hospitals with 25 beds or fewer. Low-volume hospitals participating in the project voluntarily report on a set of quality measures relevant to the care they provide, share data, and implement quality improvement initiatives. Currently, 98 percent of the 1,346 CAHs in the United States are reporting rural-relevant quality measures.

Pennsylvania has 15 CAHs which serve the most rural communities in the state. Pennsylvania was one of the very first state to achieve 100 percent reporting by CAHs to MBQIP and is one of the few programs in the nation to have a staff member dedicated to quality improvement.

The nomination, submitted by Lannette Johnston, quality improvement coordinator at PORH, recognized Baronner for being a leading rural health care advocate since 2001, applying his diverse and extensive background in rural health to serve as an invaluable resource for health care transformation in Pennsylvania and across the nation.

Johnston noted that when MBQIP was launched nationally, Baronner embraced the project’s framework and concepts, recognizing that the collection and reporting of a full complement of reliable data were necessary to increase the quality of care provided by the state’s CAHs. He inspired CAH leadership to collect and report these data. Using the first set of data as a benchmark, Baronner identified areas of strength and need in the CAH program overall and with individual hospitals to drive quality improvement activities across the state. These data have been one of the hallmarks of the Pennsylvania CAH program.

Baronner engaged consultants to work across the state and with individual CAHs to increase areas of strength and address domains of need. As an extension of MBQIP, Larry launched PORH’s Population Health Database whereby the CAHs can access community data, identify areas of need, and implement programs to increase quality of care and patient outcomes. In addition to external assistance, he maximizes patient outcomes by providing the expertise and technical assistance needed to achieve long-term positive results in the state’s CAHs. Baronner also has provided leadership to other states in meeting their quality benchmarks.

“This is an incredible honor for Larry,” noted Lisa Davis, director of PORH and outreach associate professor of health policy and administration at Penn State. “He has been a leader in the state and nationally for quality reporting and improvement in rural hospitals and healthsystems. Our office is proud to have Larry as a member of our staff.”

PORH formed in 1991 as a joint partnership between the federal government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Penn State. The office is one of 50 state offices of rural health in the nation funded under a program administered by FORHP in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is charged with being a source of coordination, technical assistance, and networking; and partnership development.

PORH provides expertise in the areas of rural health, agricultural health and safety, and community and economic development. PORH is administratively housed in the Department of Health Policy and Administration in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State University Park.