In simple terms, what does an overall community and an individual patient expect from its hospital system? Doesn’t a community expect that its hospital system provide the best and most appropriate care that it can afford? Doesn’t a patient expect to be able to be treated when needed, to be made well when able in a safe environment and lastly, to be treated kindly? So, how is Scotland Health Care System, your community’s system, doing against these expectations?
Our financial year ends Sept. 30 and I am delighted to report that this current year was one of our best. Despite enormous external economic pressures, we were able to expand and improve the breadth, quality, and safety of the care and services we provide our community.
Clearly, our Board of Trustees, physicians, and staff are extremely concerned about the continued Medicaid and Medicare payment reductions and increased regulatory requirements. They are very real and create enormous pressures on our operations. Governing officials and the public need to understand how these deleteriously threaten our ability to keep our community’s health care system strong. Adding to our external pressures are rising consumer expectations as the public becomes more knowledgeable and financially responsible for their care and the challenging demographics of our region. Ranking 98 out of 100 North Carolina counties for our county’s health is a dismal fact that we all must accept and address.
Fortunately, however, last year saw us begin making the internal transformational changes necessary to sustain ourselves in the new environment. Innovative changes in how we communicate our hospitalized patient’s condition to the next shift, physician leadership in standardizing supplies in our surgical areas, and instituting daily safety calls with all management are just a few examples of how we have used our new LEAN philosophy to improve our patient care and reduce our costs.
These changes along with many others led us to a solid financial year and earning some of the top performance scores of all the Carolinas Health Care System’s hospitals in Medicare funds at risk for quality, service and cost.
So, what are our resolutions for our new fiscal year which begins Oct. 1? At the top of the list is continued growth and strengthening of our physician practices, both Scotland Physician Network, the group of physician practices that we own and manage, and the private physician practices that anchor our delivery system. We now employ just over 100 staff members in our practices. Did you know that less than 3 percent of the patients we serve each year are inpatients? Your health care needs and our strategic future happen more and more in a physician’s office. Coordinating and integrating our patients’ care is critical for our long-run success.
One area that has not stopped growing is our Emergency Center, which now sees 130 patients daily. Our committed staff there, however, continues to meet their 140-minute average treatment time, greatly exceeding the national benchmark. Our renovation underway there will include three crucial improvements. First, it will provide several more patient treatment rooms to accommodate the growth we know will continue. Second, it will create dedicated, safe and secure space for behavioral health patients. Lastly, we are establishing a more welcoming and open registration area where patients will immediately see a nurse.
Our next three top priorities are taking advantage of the Information Technology available for us and our patients, growing our CHS, Duke and FirstHealth partnerships and recruiting and retaining the highest quality professionals possible. The electronic connections that our physician practices now have to each other, to our hospital, and to many other health care organizations throughout the state provide them much quicker and accurate information to be shared more (and duplicated less!). Patients can also now gain access to much of the hospital and soon practice treatment information, allowing them to be more informed and involved in their care.
No health care system can stand alone anymore, and we are blessed to work closely with both FirstHealth and Duke for services like Cardiology and Oncology. And clearly, we would not be sustainable at all without the tremendous support from our managing partner, Carolinas Health Care System. Quality physicians and other professionals are a chief cornerstone and to that end, we are delighted with our new cardiologist, Pembroke native Dr. Will Harris, and his service in both Laurinburg and Pembroke.
Yes, we are significantly externally challenged and we know we serve a disadvantaged region. But we are responding and making the changes necessary to continue thriving for the betterment of our community. As I talked about months ago, we are becoming “Antifragile” – growing stronger as we are stressed!
We also cannot predict what challenges will come next though I am fairly certain the future will not get much easier for us. But as Abraham Lincoln said, “the good thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time!”
I hope you remain proud, informed and engaged in your health care system’s success through active involvement and sharing of your opinions and desires.
Greg Wood is president and CEO of Scotland Health Care System.