Rural Oregonians are disproportionately impacted by cardiovascular disease, but practice coaching offers unique support.

By Michael Parchman, MD, MPH, Senior Investigator, MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation and Healthy Hearts Northwest Principal Investigator.

L.J. Fagnan and I have much in common: We’re both licensed family physicians, we’ve both practiced medicine in rural areas, and we both serve as scientific investigators on Healthy Hearts Northwest, a multi-year research project to help patients reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. With support from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s EvidenceNOW initiative, our Healthy Hearts Northwest project aimed to increase the quality improvement capacity of primary care practices through the use of practice coaches.

An early study goal was recruiting 250 clinics throughout Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, including many clinics located in rural areas. Enrollment for big studies like this always involves significant outreach, and these days recruitment is often accomplished via web or phone from a centralized location. Our project design included face-to-face interactions between our team and participants over a 15-month period, which hinged on us building interpersonal trust. So we began building those relationships by doing mostly in-person enrollment and logged many miles driving backroads and highways getting to the practitioners we wanted to reach.

L.J. founded the Oregon Practice-Based Research Network (ORPRN) in 2002. We partnered with ORPRN because we knew that the strong relationships his organization has forged would help us reach our recruitment goal. But we were excited to collaborate with him for another reason: Rural health care practices face unique challenges. No one knows rural practice like ORPRN, and we knew that the Healthy Hearts Northwest approach would offer unique support. We were eager to test our approach in rural areas.

I asked L.J. questions about Healthy Hearts Northwest in the context of practicing rural medicine — and here’s what he said.  Read the full interview on our Healthy Hearts Northwest website.