If you’re like me and have been tracking the media over the past several months, then you have seen dozens of examples of rural health care leaders transforming their operations with innovative responses to emerging opportunities and unprecedented challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. Their success is being driven by inspired leadership, forward-thinking governance and resilient clinicians and staff.
When hundreds of leaders gather virtually February 17–18 for the AHA Rural Health Care Leadership Conference, there will be opportunities to make, build and renew connections that help innovate and transform health care, through a pioneering approach toward conferencing.
Affinity groups are a unique and innovative part of this year’s conference that offer attendees a new opportunity for peer-to-peer exchange organized around key issues in rural health care. These groups will meet for the first time virtually later this month and also convene during and after the conference for networking, issue exploration, success sharing and problem solving.
Affinity Groups and Their Focus Areas
Through this new experience, conference attendees — who are encouraged to join up to two affinity groups — will have the chance to meet and learn from other leaders and experts who share interests in specific areas. These areas are:
Resilience in Ongoing Crisis
In this affinity group, participants will share how they are coping with the impact of COVID-19 and what they are doing to enhance resilience, empathy and compassion at their organizations; they also will explore the pandemic’s challenges and how to support each other through the crisis.
Pathways to Recovery
More than 133 rural hospitals have closed in the last 10 years, and another 453 rural hospitals across the country are vulnerable to closure. This affinity group will explore leadership strategies, crisis response and new models of payment and delivery emerging along the pathway to recovery.
Rural Behavioral Health: Challenges and Solutions
Planned discussion topics in this infinity group include identifying effective ways to address the shortages of specialty behavioral health providers, use community partnerships to improve access, and reduce stigma and deaths of despair.
Rural Community Health Investment and Improvement
Participants in this affinity group will focus on learning about current resources, sharing leading practices and making connections with peers in rural health care across the country around investing in communities to drive greater equity.
Innovations and Digital Transformation
While digital transformation may sound daunting, broken down into smaller components aided by proven innovation tools and approaches, strategies can yield results within months and even weeks. This affinity group will learn about and share best practices for building an innovation culture that engages digital transformation.
Facilitated by two governance experts, this affinity group seeks to bring together board members and CEOs to discuss common governance issues such as conducting effective executive sessions, recruiting new board members, supporting CEOs when physician discipline is necessary and embracing new decision-making models.
Joining an Affinity Group
There’s still time to register for the AHA Rural Health Care Leadership Conference and join one or two affinity groups, which convene for their first network meeting the week of January 24. During the live conference in February, participants in these groups will meet for a special “Coffee and Conversation” session. Affinity groups also will convene one or more times after the conference.
Depending on a particular affinity group’s focus and interest, the facilitators and participants will share resources and tools, learn from subject matter experts, test AHA initiatives and projects, and develop follow-up assignments.
I look forward to seeing you then and engaging in discussions through affinity groups — our innovative networking experience.
John Supplitt is senior director of AHA Rural Health Services.