Bellin Health Oconto Hospital joins national pilot program



OCONTO – Bellin Health Oconto Hospital & Clinic is part of a national pilot program focusing on patient transfers from small, rural emergency departments to larger, urban centers.

The program seeks to enhance the abilities of rural emergency departments to facilitate the seamless transfer of patients from rural emergency patients to emergency departments in more expansive, urban medical facilities.

The program is funded through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Office of Rural Health and MetaStar (a state quality improvement organization) are also working in partnership on this effort.

“Emergency care is crucial in rural areas where the distance from urban medical centers makes the effective triage, stabilization and transfer of patients essential,” said Lisa Sbonik, team leader, Clinical Services at Oconto Hospital.

“For example, when a patient arrives at our emergency services area needing time-sensitive care that includes transfer to our Green Bay hospital, our ability to quickly assess, arrange and get the patient out the door with the necessary and appropriate information can be of life or death importance,” Sbonik said.

Data indicating how well rural hospitals serve this care transition role is not widely available, program leaders say. That’s where the pilot will help.

The pilot program will provide support for Oconto Hospital and other rural facilities to be trained to collect information on emergency department transfer communication and to use the data to improve quality of care, safety and outcomes for patients transferred from their rural-area emergency departments.

“Participating in this project provides us the opportunity to focus on improving the lives of the people who live and work in the Oconto community and beyond,” Sbonik said.

Wisconsin is one of eight states participating in the program. There are 16 rural emergency centers included in the program.