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Horizon Health Care, Inc. Receives John T. Vucurevich Foundation Grant

The John T. Vucurevich Foundation recently announced an $86,943 grant award to Horizon Health Care, Inc. (Horizon). Founded in 1989, the John T. Vucurevich Foundation, a private independent foundation, awards grants supporting the advancement of the arts, education and science, and the promotion of social welfare within South Dakota, with preference given to the West River area and in particular the Black Hills. The grant will be used to implement a data backup solution that will protect vital patient information while responding to disasters.

Horizon’s service area includes twenty-four clinics including nine West River clinics; four of which are located within the top forty poorest counties in the United States. “Patients in Horizon’s service area deserve the same level of care as those receiving care from larger health systems. This level of care includes the protection of patient information within the electronic health record (EHR) system. As part of delivering quality care, it’s vital that our healthcare providers have ready access to the EHR while treating patients, especially during a disaster,” says Scott Weatherill, Chief Information Officer for Horizon. This opportunity through the Foundation will help Horizon maintain its level of quality care by ensuring access to patient information within the EHR during a disaster.

Responding to disasters is something Horizon needs to be ready for. During natural disasters including tornadoes and ice storms as well as technological disasters such as equipment failures and cyber-attacks, having technology to back up patient data is critical. If Horizon’s clinics were to lose access to the EHR and vital patient information is unavailable, this directly affects care. “The Foundation’s gift will greatly enhance Horizon’s ability to recover from potential disaster,” according to Weatherill.

The focus of the John T. Vucurevich Foundation is primarily given to charitable organizations which are committed to helping the poor, distressed, and under privileged in this region. Horizon’s mission includes a similar commitment by providing high-quality healthcare regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.

For over 35 years, Horizon Health Care, Inc. has been providing personalized, affordable, high-quality medical, dental and mental health care through a rural, community-based network in South Dakota. Horizon is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that serves the medical, dental and mental health care needs of South Dakotans in rural, medically underserved areas through 82,000 patient visits annually in 24 community health centers in: Aberdeen, Bison, Bryant, De Smet, Eagle Butte, Faith, Fort Thompson, Howard, Huron, Isabel, La Plant, Lake Preston, Martin, McIntosh, Mission, Plankinton, Wessington Springs, White River and Woonsocket.

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Horizon Health Care, Inc. Receives USDA Grant to Expand Access of Rural Telehealth

Horizon Health Care, Inc. (Horizon) recently received its fourth USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant, which will provide unprecedented health care access to rural populations through the expansion of their existing telemedicine capabilities.

The project proposed by Horizon, Horizon – Expanding Access through Rural Telehealth (HEART), is an innovative project that will be provided as a transformation of Horizon clinics to Patient-Centered Medical Homes. The PCMH model is a nation-wide movement that centers on a care team approach, as well as partnerships between patients and providers, and lastly expanded access of services and communication with specialty physicians. This transformation will ensure that all patients served have the coordinated, high quality health care in their own rural communities. Based on assessments of Horizon’s existing services and gaps in local availability of health care, the HEART project will focus on addressing the following issues by enhancing services through telemedicine:

  • Cardiovascular services to address the high prevalence and lack of control of cardiovascular disease risk factors.
  • High rates of diabetes and poor disease self-management among rural, low-income residents in the region require that access to specialty care (e.g. endocrinologists) and diabetes self-management education be easily accessible through telemedicine.
  • Access to behavioral health care continues to be a challenge for rural residents in the HEART program region – a situation that is evident in untreated and chronic depression and suicide, among the region’s adults and teens.
  • Limited capacity of primary health care providers in the project’s rural communities has led to many rural, uninsured or underinsured patients to rely on local hospital emergency departments as a source of primary care. Unfortunately, this care is costly for patients and often requires significant travel and can be fragmented, as the ability for emergency staff to coordinate care over time is limited, at best. As a result, primary care capacity of the CHCs must be expanded via telemedicine to ensure greater access, and to provide residents with a local, more coordinated source of care for non-emergency health issues.

During the three year project period, Horizon will work under the HEART Project to address these issues and make appropriate referrals to cardiologists, diabetes specialists, and behavioral health specialists via telemedicine and improve timely treatment of patients in each of these areas. “With this latest grant funding, we have a great opportunity to combine the HEART Project with Horizon’s existing telehealth efforts and over fifteen years of experience in delivering healthcare via telemedicine to help Horizon’s rural clinics move to the next level in delivering quality health care services and education,” said Scott Weatherill, Chief Information Officer of Horizon.

For over 35 years, Horizon Health Care, Inc. has been providing personalized, affordable, high-quality medical, dental and mental health care through a rural, community-based network in South Dakota. Horizon is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that serves the medical, dental and mental health care needs of South Dakotans in rural, medically underserved areas through 78,000 patient visits annually in 18 community health centers in: Aberdeen, Bryant, DeSmet, Howard, Huron, Fort Thompson, Lake Preston, Martin, Mission, Plankinton, Wessington Springs, White River and Woonsocket. For more information please visit

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Horizon Health Care, Inc. Receives $300,000 Three-Year Rural HIT Workforce Development Grant

The grant will fund the “It’s a HIT!” –Health IT Training for Rural Healthcare Providers initiative  which includes Prairie Health IT Network Members including Horizon’s 14 medical clinic locations and two additional rural FQHC organizations, Prairie Community Health with five clinics in central and northwest South Dakota and allPOINTS Health Services, with two clinics in southeast South Dakota, for a total of 21 primary care clinics across the state.

“Through the “It’s a HIT!” project, a health IT training program for incumbent rural South Dakota workers will be developed. The training will include skills enhancement in areas such as technology adoption and meaningful use of electronic medical records,” said Scott Weatherill, CIO of Horizon.

The ‘It’s a HIT!’ project will include the creation of an online HIT curriculum as well as a certified electronic health record training and apprenticeship program for its participants.  As part of the “It’s a HIT!” program, Prairie Health IT Network members will partner with Dakota State University (DSU) in Madison, SD.

DSU will provide a key role in the success of the “It’s a HIT!” program through curriculum design and development as well as publishing the HIT training online. The training will incorporate adult learning styles and be delivered across the state using various technologies used by the Prairie Health IT Network.

“DSU will play a pivotal role in the “It’s a HIT!” project. The curriculum must be relevant, engaging and accessible for rural health workers in order for it to be a success.  Having access to DSU’s staff and student expertise will ensure the curriculum achieves the project goal,” says Lindsey Karlson, Network Director of the Prairie Health IT Network.

ORHP announced the release of the Rural Health Information Technology Workforce Development Program in the spring of 2013.  The purpose of the program is to support formal rural health networks that focus on activities relating to the recruitment, education, training and retention of HIT specialists. This program also provides support to rural health networks that can leverage and enhance existing HIT training materials to develop formal training programs, which will provide instructional opportunities to current health care staff, local displaced workers, rural residents, veterans and other potential students. Ten to fifteen grant awards were given across the nation for an estimated $4.5 million of program funding.

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