Passion of One Woman for Rural Care Creates New Community in Indiana

In August 2013, JoAnn Burke moved back to her small, rural hometown of Tipton, Indiana, in anticipation of her retirement within a few short years. She saw a need for improved care for the aging population, which she had observed visiting family there for years.

When she learned that Tipton would soon have the third oldest population in the state, her resolve to make improvements became stronger.

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JoAnn Burke leads planning with the new Indiana care coordination community.

Because of her extensive experience in healthcare, Burke was able to identify gaps in care. Her professional experience and personal connection with the community compelled her to do something about the gaps for the nearly 3,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Tipton.

As an undergraduate nursing student, JoAnn was only one of two students who wanted to pursue gerontology nursing. She obtained her master’s degree in social work and later her Ph.D. As the Director of Gerontology at St. Mary’s College, she has seen the effect that local improvements can make.

“Working in an academic institution has given me the opportunity to make professional connections across the state of Indiana. I am using my professional network to help my rural community access resources that can help it better meet the needs of our rapidly growing older population,” Burke said.

To begin, she tried knocking on the doors of local agencies and asking for their help; however, she understood that it would take more than that.

Her next step was to build awareness through the community of the gaps in care and what would happen if efforts didn’t focus on improvements.

“I made personal contacts and three community educational presentations to help the community better understand the need for change due to population aging. We had a good response to these presentations and people realized that we needed some change,” she said.

Finally, in March 2015, she invited all of Tipton to come and share their input on a community needs assessment focused on seniors. Over 70 people arrived and she heard from every one of them that day.

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Sharon Barclay and JoAnn Burke at the June Kickoff

“Ok, what now?” she then asked herself.

That’s when Burke reached out to atom Alliance. Contracted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMs), atom Alliance brings together statewide communities to create powerful collaborations of change that promote the seamless coordination of care for older adults.

“We help connect them to people and resources to build and support a community,” said Sharon Barclay, Quality Improvement Advisor for atom Alliance in Indiana.

Burke formed a care coordination community, joining the 18 other care coordination communities established across the five-state Alliance serving Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.

“JoAnn is passionate about trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together where she grew up. On her own, she is trying to make a difference, and now we have incorporated the community to share the work to bring improvements,” Barclay said.

Burke initiated a kickoff event on June 16, 2015, and invited leaders from the Tipton County Health Department, the Indiana University Tipton Hospital Foundation, Miller’s Health, Area 5 Agency on Aging and several others.

Barclay helped facilitate interdependent leadership and work team development at this first meeting. The community created a charter and workgroups to focus on medication management, advanced care planning, health record communication improvement and the transition processes.

atom Alliance is providing the community with claims-based Medicare data. The community, which calls itself Central Indiana Care Coordination Coalition (CICCC), has enlisted the help of a statistician who will use the data and obtain other data to achieve and track goals.

“It is wonderful to see healthcare organizations and the aging services network as well as other key entities in the county working together on these vitally important issues,” Burke said.

The community has already set their first goal—obtain wheelchair transportation for the county.

“Sometimes, it’s the simplest changes that make the greatest impact,” said Barclay. “Always, it takes the passion of dedicated people to create the change.”

Join an atom Alliance care coordination community near you.