Becker’s Hospital Review lists Vickie Diamond on ‘50 Rural Hospital CEOs to Know’

By Kristy Bleizeffer Feb 24, 2014

Becker’s Hospital Review has named Wyoming Medical Center President and CEO Vickie Diamond one of its “50 Rural Hospital CEOs to Know.” This is the first year Becker’s has compiled the list.

“The selected CEOs, presidents and administrators have received awards highlighting their commitment to leading rural facilities, are members or leaders in prominent local, state or national organizations and head up high-quality organizations,” said Heather Punke, assistant editor of Becker’s Hospital Review.

“Rural healthcare leaders face certain challenges that are not present in more urban environments. For instance, only about 10 percent of physicians practice in rural areas, according to a 2010 report prepared by the Southwest Rural Health Research Center, which can lead to physician shortages. Additionally, rural residents tend to be poorer, leading to payer mix issues,” Punke said. “This list recognizes rural hospital and health system presidents and CEOs who have shown commitment to providing high-quality, accessible care to their patient populations in the face of those and other rural health challenges.”

Diamond is one of two Wyoming CEOs included on the list. Rick Schroeder, administrator and CEO of North Big Horn Hospital in Lovell, was also included.

Diamond was named President and CEO of Wyoming Medical Center in 2008 after serving as our chief nursing officer. She is a board member of the American Hospital Association (AHA) and chairwoman of the (AHA) Region 8 Policy Board, representing seven states – Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. She is the winner of the 2013 Wyoming Woman of Influence in Health Care and a Becker’s Hospital Review’s “300 Hospital and Health System Leaders to Know.”

The Pulse sat down with Diamond to talk about the challenges of providing health care in the least populated state in the country.

The Pulse: What are some of the challenges in operating a full-service medical center in a rural area like Wyoming?

Diamond: There are several challenges. The biggest is making sure you protect the depth and scope of services that you have, which is especially true at Wyoming Medical Center since we are a Level II Trauma Center. We have to keep that viable and we have to make sure we maintain the right staffing for our trauma center. Also,  in a rural area, these services always come at a higher cost, so it’s trying to keep those costs in line. We just don’t have the population to offset some of those costs.

I think the other challenge is that rural hospitals tend to stand alone, and in this new environment with everybody trying to combine for efficiency, it is harder for the rural hospital to do that. So, the question is, how do you keep your hospital viable while transforming your organization at the same time?

The Pulse: How has Wyoming Medical Center adapted to overcome these challenges?

Diamond: One of our critical issues is to make sure we keep our small, critical access hospitals viable in the state. So, we are developing a Wyoming Integrated Care Network where we can improve the health of our population through hospitals coming together. We do that through Patient-Centered Medical Homes, which are patient focused and coordinate care throughout the continuum as at Wyoming Medical Center. Hospitals are working together for common medical outcomes and I think that’s one of the key things so we can to try to keep our population healthier.

And just keeping Wyoming Medical Center on the cutting edge. I think being on the (American Hospital Association) board of trustees at the national level really has helped me see what I need to get this hospital positioned for the transformation that is coming. We have to move from inpatient to community-based health. So how do we go about doing that? How do we allocate the resources to do that?

The Pulse: America’s Emergency Care Environment recently ranked the State of Wyoming as 47th in the country for public health/injury prevention, noting that we have the highest rate of traffic fatalities in the country and the second highest rate of fatal occupational injuries. At the same time, we also have extremely low rates of vaccination among children and older adults. What, do you believe, is the role of the community hospital in improving public health and preventing injury?

Diamond: As a Level II Trauma Center, we do have an injury prevention coordinator who is out frequently in our community educating about Safe Kids, helmets for bicycles, helmets for skiing and so on. Our injury prevention coordinator is also out there talking to our surrounding smaller hospitals about those issues.

Wyoming is unique in the sense that people just don’t have really immediate access to care, so when they do have access, it’s usually at a time when they are injured or something like that. We have a lot of back roads, lots of wind, lots of weather that impacts what we do here.

I think our big businesses are working hard on occupational injuries, and there’s been a lot of improvement in that. But many of our jobs are very high-risk, dangerous jobs. We don’t have a good balance between people who work in an office job versus people who work on an oil rig or in the field. I think the vaccinations issue is just simply access to care in our rural areas.

The Pulse: Are we going to see more education campaigns coming out of hospitals, then? Is that part of the population health piece you were talking about?

Diamond: Yes, definitely. In order to keep healthcare costs down, we’ve got to keep people healthy. People have to own their health, but they need information on how to do it.

The Pulse: What does this designation mean to you, and what do you think it says about Wyoming Medical Center?

Diamond: It’s a professional recognition that I’m very honored to have. More importantly, what it means is Wyoming Medical Center is getting out in the public and national press for the accomplishments that we’ve achieved with our physicians and staff and caring for patients. That’s really what it means. It’s an honor for me, but it really is more a reflection of the outcomes of this organization and not of me.

The Pulse: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Diamond: I just think, from the perspective of rural health, is that it takes everybody together to plan health for a state like Wyoming. We have small populations, so the more we work together, the better off we are. Improving health in our state gives us a chance to work with our legislators to explain healthcare issues in this era of transformation.

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