AHA Names Rural Hospital Leadership Award Winner and Finalist

WASHINGTON (January 19, 2021) – The American Hospital Association (AHA) today announced Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) in Bennington, Vt., as the 2020 recipient of the Rural Hospital Leadership Award. The award recognizes small or rural hospital leaders who guide their hospital and community through transformational change on the road to health care reform. They display outstanding leadership, responsiveness to their community’s health needs and demonstrate a collaborative community process that has led to measurable outcomes. The award will be presented at the AHA’s 34th Rural Health Care Leadership Conference, which will be held virtually February 17-18, 2021.

Like many rural health systems across the country, SVMC serves a patient population that is experiencing increased rates of chronic illness associated with advanced aging. One of SVMC’s strategies was to use its nursing workforce as part of a transitional care model oriented at keeping older adults out of the hospital, reducing readmissions and delivering the right care in the right setting. An additional inspiration for the SVMC team led by Chief Nursing Officer Pamela Duchene was to deepen its partnership with OneCare Vermont, an all-payer accountable care organization aimed at lowering overall health care costs while aligning more effectively with high-quality outcomes. SVMC saw the launch of this organization as well in line with the goals of their own transitional care model.

Under the expanded model, transitional care nurses partner with primary care providers to help patients navigate the system, identifying and closing gaps in care. Particular focus is given to linking with local home care agencies, skilled nursing facilities and other community care partners. Nurses spend time in multiple care settings, including medical practices and in patient homes, and communicate through a variety of approaches to help make this commitment to continuity of care a reality, including through telemedicine. The approach has helped to address many of the social determinants of health that contribute to chronic illness in rural Vermont. This includes mismanagement of medications, unsafe and unsanitary conditions at home and lack of financial resources.

In 2020, Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC), parent organization of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, ranked fourth out of 3,282 hospitals nationwide in value of care, according to the Lown Institute Hospitals Index. SVHC also saw decreased readmissions, prompt identification of issues and improved patient satisfaction. 

The AHA Rural Hospital Leadership Award also recognized Titusville Area Hospital, Titusville, Pa., as a finalist.

Titusville Area Hospital (TAH) serves a rural and largely low-income population in several counties. Under the leadership of Lee Clinton, TAH responded to indications of poor patient satisfaction in its emergency department by significantly reducing the “door-to-doc” time. By the end of 2017, the average median time of transport to the emergency department reported by CMS for the last three quarters of the year was 13 minutes – down from 46 minutes. The reduction also decreased the amount of time patients spent in the emergency department. As a result of these changes, patients reported higher satisfaction; 100% of those surveyed said they would recommend the ED. TAH also took steps to address transportation challenges for non-emergency appointments, including through new clinics and community collaborations to increase the number of access points.

The dynamic leadership teams at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Titusville Area Hospital highlight the many ways in which hospitals and health systems continue to reach beyond their four walls to meet the needs of their communities in innovative ways.


Contact:        Sean Barry, (202) 626-2306, sbarry@aha.org
                      Marie Johnson, (202) 626-2351, mjohnson@aha.org

About the American Hospital Association
The American Hospital Association (AHA) is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities. The AHA advocates on behalf of our nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations, our clinician partners – including more than 270,000 affiliated physicians, 2 million nurses and other caregivers – and the 43,000 health care leaders who belong to our professional membership groups. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides insight and education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, visit the AHA website at www.aha.org


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