Rural Healthcare: Why Advocacy, Community Engagement, and Technology Matter

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By CereCore | Nov 3, 2023

4 minute read MEDITECH| EHR/EMR| Blog| Client Perspectives

Meet Lynn Falcone, a rural healthcare CEO, with over 30 years of experience in healthcare operations, most of which was spent working in large urban settings. Today, she is the CEO of Cuero Regional Hospital in Cuero, Texas, and after almost eight years in her role, she is still considered the "new administrator" compared to others who have been with the hospital for decades. 

Lynn talks with Phil Sobol, vice president of business development at CereCore, about the day-to-day operations in this 49-bed rural hospital. She takes great pride the many ways they serve their community, whether delivering babies or providing emergency and intensive care services. It’s quite impressive, because they also own and operate a home health agency, EMS services, a wellness center, and five rural health clinics. They are the largest employer in the county, and recently they kicked off a MEDITECH Expanse EHR implementation project.    


Advocacy, affiliations and community involvement forge vital relationships 

Lynn explains her interactions with the board and the community and the affiliation agreement that Cuero Regional Hospital has with the Methodist Healthcare System in San Antonio. 

“The board of directors saw the struggle of rural facilities and the number of rural hospitals that had been closing and were looking at partnership to help. There was a lot of angst that Methodist was owning the hospital, and that is truly not the case,” said Lynn. “It is an affiliation agreement, and we have access to HealthTrust Purchasing Group and education. There was a lot of trying to convince the community that this was a good move and not to shun the organization because an outsider owned it. The board really did still hold the control.” 

To overcome the challenges and build trust within the community, Lynn encourages her leaders and employees to participate in community activities and organizations like Breast Cancer Awareness month, local football games and the Rotary Club.  

“People don't think about healthcare until you need healthcare,” said Lynn. “The hospital's there and I drive by it every other day. So, we work with our community to find out why they might go someplace else. Are they not aware that we have the service? Are they not aware that we can do it?  

“I never dreamed in a rural hospital that I would have a da Vinci robot, but I now have a surgeon and a da Vinci robot. I have the first 3T MRI in the area, and that's pulled a lot of people to our organization that maybe would have bypassed us. I really believe that rural facilities have to work harder at quality and safety because there is an image in many people's minds that you don't get the quality and that bigger is always better. And having worked both, I would be a staunch supporter to say that's not true. And I'm just really proud of the fact that we've been a top 100 hospital.” 

Lynn also emphasizes the role of organizations like the Texas Organization of Rural Community Hospitals (TORCH) in supporting rural healthcare. TORCH serves as an advocate for rural hospitals and provides valuable resources and information to help navigate the challenges faced by rural healthcare providers. Through her involvement in TORCH's board of directors, Lynn contributes to the collaborative efforts aimed at improving community healthcare in Texas. 

Patient safety is the No. 1 goal for implementing a modern EHR  

Soon after Lynn joined Cuero the board of directors began suggesting it was time to upgrade their EHR. “When I came in, I was not at all familiar with MEDITECH and I quickly realized that we needed a new system, because I couldn't get data out of my system that was going to help me be a better leader to the organization,” said Lynn. 

“Being a MEDITECH hospital, we were going to stay a MEDITECH hospital. The difference was in my five rural health clinics, because they were Allscripts. So we are functioning on two different platforms, which is an incredible challenge for one small organization,” explained Lynn. 

“We really spent the last four to five years upgrading our infrastructure and our security systems. We've had board support the entire way through, keeping them informed of why we weren't going to pull the trigger years ago. It really took a bit to get the infrastructure up to support any system.” 

Lynn explains that the investment in a new EHR will be worth it to their organization because of three aspects: patient safety, ease of use, and data. 

"Patient safety is one of my hot buttons. It is all about the patient, and what we are doing to keep those patients safe,” said Lynn. 

“Healthcare has changed in the last 30 years. Unfortunately, my EHR hasn't changed at the same pace as healthcare, and I think we have got to do more to get current. Then, we need to do a better job of keeping it up to date as we continue through.” 

“If I had to point to one thing, I'd still point back to patient safety — by making processes easier, better communication, and reducing human entry where it doesn't have to be.” 

Stream the full episode

Get more behind-the-scenes perspective from Lynn Falcone on topics such as these:

  • What are the secrets to providing excellent patient care despite the tough challenges facing rural healthcare today?  
  • How do you build relationships and trust with the community and culture among employees? 
  • What benefits do advocacy organizations and affiliations bring in terms of purchasing power and educational opportunities?  
  • With all of the investments required for hospital operations, how do you know when the timing is right to move towards a modern EHR like MEDITECH Expanse?

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