Expert Panel Discussion: Health Care Reform:
How Community Hospitals Thrive in an Environment of Rapid Change
We have begun to employ physicians and establish collaborative relationships with larger health care facilities to provide specialty physician access and coverage. The latter poses challenges in aligning physicians to our hospital. Education, communication, and engagement then become key. We have several physicians on our board and various committees, including our strategic planning and health information technology committees.
IT tools that allow convenience, remote access, and best equip physicians to treat patients efficiently and effectively will continue to improve recruitment and retention.
Community Hospital does not own the family practice clinic in town. The McCook Clinic leases the medical office building from the hospital. We do see hospital and physician relationships to be critical, particularly with the onset of the EMR and meaningful use, as well as health care reform. We need to act together as a health care team more than ever. The challenges ahead for our hospitals and for physician clinics are immense and I feel teamwork and a common focus are essential to succeed as a health care team. To that end, we have involved physicians in our strategic planning and, most recently, in our implementation of CPOE. This is not a new concept to have physician champions on IT implementations, but this one is more critical than ever as we are also working to ensure that the clinic's EMR, and ultimately the hosptial's EMR, will be able to work together to share necessary patient care information. We need to do this under the meaningful use requirements, but we also need to do this to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the care given to patients and create a positive impact on their overall health care experience. The McCook Clinic practice administrator and I meet on a regular basis to discuss issues and opportunities. We strive to understand physician concerns and address them as quickly as possible. Communication and action are the keys here, as we all know.
We recruit physicians to our rural health care environment by keeping our facilities up-to-date from a technology and patient care standpoint. We are in the midst of a $29 million construction project that will result in a new patient wing, new surgical suites, new support spaces, dedicated outpatient services spaces, as well as many other improvements to set our facility up for today's deliverance of health care services and to position the organization to meet the need of our region for years to come. We are also constantly updating our technology from an information systems, as well as medical equipment, perspective. Beyond these efforts, we also work hard to sell the rural community as a wonderful place to raise a family and enjoy the style of living that a small town can offer. Finally, we do offer loan repayment programs to physicians that forgive loans for years of service to our hospital. All of these efforts are done whether we hire the physician, or the physician becomes a part of the McCook Clinic. We work together in our recruiting efforts.
James, your physician recruiting efforts focus on the community, rather than the hospital. Gaining community support is key in our roadmap to achieving meaningful use.
In terms of hospital-physician relations, getting technology in the hands of the providers helps align the hospital with the physician. We have identified a clinic physician technology champion and a hospital technology champion to help build our roadmap to meaningful use.
As the IT Manager for our hospital and clinics, I am constantly thinking about tablets, netbooks, laptops and writing applications that would support the physician in clinical decision-making, patient outcomes, and patient satisfaction. I attend the monthly medical staff meetings and provide updates on IT developments and the achievement of meaningful use. My attendance at these meetings provides an effective way to share information with our providers about the hospital's technology plan.
One of the main steps that we have taken is to implement a new committee just for physicians that is designed to get physicians deeply involved in the technology selection process and to make them aware of what is needed at our hospital to achieve meaningful use. This committee of physicians will be our champions to help promote the new modules needed to meet meaningful use of the EHR and to help with the initial setup of the new modules.
By offering advanced technology to provide the best possible patient care at Twin County Regional Hospital, we are able to better recruit physicians who have already been using the same technology. Our existing physicians have seen a major change in the use of technology at our hospital in the last few years and see the true benefits of how it has improved patient care and we believe that this has helped with retaining our current physicians.