The La Plata Healthcare Improvement Coalition (LPHIC), an effort organized by the League of Women Voters of La Plata County, launched this June with over 65 individuals and volunteers participating, including leadership of Mercy Hospital, Animas Surgical Hospital, Axis Health System, La Plata County, City of Durango, Town of Bayfield, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Local First Foundation, Durango School District 9R, Fort Lewis College, United Way, Community Foundation, Companeros, Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado, Pediatric Partners of the Southwest and many others.

LPHIC members have been meeting monthly in five work groups – Accessibility, Affordability, Availability, Community Benefit, and Healthcare Data – with facilitated discussions focused on strengthening and improving our local healthcare system.

The work groups have made progress in defining their aims, identifying, understanding and prioritizing issues and opportunities, strengthening collaborations and exploring possible solutions. The following is a brief update of each group’s progress to date:


The aim of the Accessibility work group is to address barriers to health access through identifying equitable solutions and taking action.

Health Resource Knowledge/Literacy: The work group has prioritized the lack of health resource knowledge/literacy as a significant barrier to healthcare access in La Plata County. A sub group of LPHIC members has formed and is currently conducting a study to evaluate the feasibility of creating a Community Care Hub that helps connect residents to existing organizations and services in our community. The group has reviewed community care hubs in existence in communities throughout the US to better understand best practices, impact and sustainability.

Transportation: This work group has also identified the lack of transportation, particularly in the rural areas of La Plata County, as a significant barrier to healthcare access. The group is evaluating current usage, gaps, and data related to existing transportation service and is discussing possible approaches to increase public awareness and usage of local transportation providers. It is also exploring approaches to increase ride-sharing options in our area.


The aim of the Affordability work group is to identify issues and propose solutions related to the cost of healthcare to consumers, so that healthcare is accessible to La Plata County residents.

Health Insurance Literacy: To effectively use their health insurance, consumers need to know what is covered, which providers are included in the network, and how to appeal adverse coverage decisions. The group is discussing potential solutions such as creating tip sheets and expanding and/or amplifying resources for seeking health insurance assistance that may already exist in the community.

Price Transparency: Consumers often want to know in advance how much they can expect to pay for healthcare services, especially expensive elective procedures, so that they can make informed decisions. The group has learned about existing tools that allow consumers to compare the average prices of selected procedures at different facilities. The group is exploring how local providers are making pricing information publicly available.

Medical Billing and Financial Assistance: Consumers may benefit from knowing how to check their medical bills for errors, how to challenge inaccurate medical bills, and about financial assistance programs and payment plans that can reduce or help them pay their bills. The group is testing a billing assistance program to educate community members and help them advocate for themselves and others in these situations. The group is discussing how to engage healthcare providers in addressing these concerns.


The aim of the Availability work group is to identify key sustainable solutions that address gaps between supply and community demand/need for high-quality local or regional healthcare providers, services and programs.

Provider Availability: Reports to the group by Mercy, Axis Health System and Durangoans for Improved Health Care indicate significant progress has been made in recruiting and filling gaps in primary care, cardiovascular services, critical care services, pulmonology, gastroenterology, urology and hematology-oncology. Feasibility and sustainability of a public website listing local providers is being evaluated. Members of this group are also participating in and reporting on the regional SouthWest Opioid Response District (SWORD) collaborative that was formed to identify viable, sustainable, substance treatment, recovery and resource expansion.

Healthcare Workforce Recruitment and Retention: The group has prioritized this area for identifying causes of recruitment difficulties and retention problems, supporting local workforce housing initiatives, exploring potential collaborations and advancing proposals to positively impact recruitment and retention.

Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Long-Term Care Support Services: The group has prioritized availability of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and long-term care resources and support as areas of need in our community and is establishing a subgroup to evaluate existing needs and potential opportunities for improvement.

Availability of Reproductive Healthcare and Medical Aid in Dying Services: In the coming year, the group intends to evaluate ways to provide for additional reproductive healthcare and medical aid in dying services in our community.

Community Benefit

The aim of the Community Benefit work group is to strengthen collaboration among local healthcare providers in order to clarify, prioritize, and act upon community benefit needs.

Community assessments conducted by Mercy Hospital, SouthWest Opioid Response District (SWORD), and San Juan Basin Public Health have identified and reported on overlapping needs and gaps in access to mental health services, substance use, suicide prevention, food security, affordable housing, and workforce availability. Subgroups will be formed to understand existing organizations and initiatives in these areas, including the efforts of other LPHIC work groups, and determine what, if any, opportunities exist to help strengthen local collaborations.

Healthcare Data

The aim of the Healthcare Data work group is to acquire, aggregate, integrate and share local healthcare information and data.

Interoperability: The group has heard presentations from multiple Health Information Exchange companies, as well as Common Spirit, to understand the options available to provide an overview of secure patient data platforms that can improve care delivery. Information is being gathered at this stage and a report will be developed to support local provides in improving adoption and utilization of the available tools.

Closed-Loop Referral System: As part of the Community Care Hub evaluation (see Accessibility above) a subgroup is reviewing Web-based referral platforms from a variety of vendors to explore options and better understand the process. The purpose of a closed-loop referral platform is to facilitate and track referrals between medical, social, or behavioral service providers within the community to ensure people get connected to the care they need.

Community Healthcare Dashboard: The group is providing consultation and support to Local First on their plans to develop a Web-based “dashboard” that tracks, monitors and reports on a variety of local healthcare indicators. The purpose of the initiative is to report on the performance of our local healthcare, assess healthcare value and identify opportunities for improvement, and inform and guide community-wide assessment, planning, and action.