Improving the Health of Rural Communities Through Academic-Community Partnerships and Interprofessional Health Care and Training Models
Academic Medicine Invited Commentary by National Center Founding Director Barbara Brandt and colleagues:
Health disparities between rural and urban areas are widening at a time when urban health care systems are increasingly buying rural hospitals to gain market share. New payment models, shifting from fee-for-service to value-based care, are gaining traction, creating incentives for health care systems to manage the social risk factors that increase health care utilization and costs. Health system consolidation and value-based care are increasingly linking the success of urban health care systems to rural communities. Yet, despite the natural ecosystem rural communities provide for interprofessional learning and collaborative practice, many academic health centers (AHCs) have not invested in building team-based models of practice in rural areas. With responsibility for training the future health workforce and major investments in research infrastructure and educational capacity, AHCs are uniquely positioned to develop interprofessional practice and training opportunities in rural areas and evaluate the cost savings and quality outcomes associated with team-based care models. To accomplish this work, AHCs will need to develop academic-community partnerships that include networks of providers and practices, non-AHC educational organizations, and community-based agencies. In this commentary, the authors highlight 3 examples of academic-community partnerships that developed and implemented interprofessional practice and education models and were designed around specific patient populations with measurable outcomes: North Carolina's Asheville Project, the Boise Interprofessional Academic Patient Aligned Care model, and the Interprofessional Care Access Network framework. These innovative models demonstrate the importance of academic-community partnerships to build teams that address social needs, improve health outcomes, and lower costs. They also highlight the need for more rigorous reporting on the components of the academic-community partnerships involved, the different types of health workers deployed, and the design of the interprofessional training and practice models implemented.