Daily Record: Wooster Community Hospital discusses future of health care

WOOSTER — A speaker at the IBM Watson 100 Top Summit predicted a coming “collision of priorities” in health care.

Summit presenter Michael Leavitt labeled it as “human compassion versus economic strength.”

Leavitt, who served as the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2005 to 2009, was one of the speakers whose message was relayed to the Wooster Community Hospital board of governors by Wooster Mayor Bob Breneman, several board members and other hospital associates who attended the conference.

Breneman quoted Leavitt as saying in his comments about health care, “Republicans and Democrats will agree on three things: Fee for service is a problem and needs to move to fee for value; coordinated care is higher quality; and reducing costs overall (is a priority),”

“Competition in health care will concentrate by region,” said Leavitt, according to Breneman, and “More health systems will own their own plans as far as insurance and (there will be) more government influence on payment policies.”

“Medicare will not exist by 2025,” according to Leavitt, Breneman said. “Medicare Advantage will approach 50 percent, and Medicaid will still be a player.”

“We’re 25 years into a 40-year process as far as revamping health care. The next 15 years are going to be important,” said Breneman as his takeaway from Leavitt’s presentation.

“Quality care for a bonus price — hospitals that do this will be the winners,” Breneman added.

Another topic covered at the Summit was telehealth in a panel calling it “The Indispensable Tool for the Future.”

“We want things to be better,” Boyes said, and comparatively, from his observations at the Summit conference, “We’re not any different than a lot of the bigger players (in) talking about telehealth and (its) challenges and the fact there really isn’t money behind it … the insurance industry hasn’t embraced it.”

Even so, “The new wave and new generation will be embracing a different way of receiving their care, and we have to not ignore it,” Boyes said.

Board member Yvonne Williams, a Summit attendee, shared her opinion about the topic of reducing the cost of health care.

“The doctors in the hospital are taking the hit,” Williams said. “The question was asked (at the Summit), what are we going to do about the health insurance? We didn’t get an answer.”

Wooster Community Hospital representatives attended the IBM Summit in recognition of the hospital’s fifth time to be named as one of 20 hospitals distinguished as a Top 100 Hospital in the U.S. in the category of 914 medium-sized hospitals by IBM Watson Health, placing it in the top 2 percent of its division.

To stay on top, Wooster Community and other health care providers learned health care delivery is changing, and health care providers will need to adapt.

“Changes are coming,” said the hospital’s chief nursing officer, Shelly Huff, one of the Summit attendees who heard from speakers “what we need to do to adjust” and “how to bring health care costs down.”

In the midst of rapid change, Scott Boyes, the hospital’s chief fiscal officer, said he was impressed by the need to “do the right thing … regardless.”

Boyes described a “culture that wants to get better. I think that’s ingrained now, and we don’t want to lose it (at Wooster Community Hospital).”

Overall, Breneman said, “We had nice conversations with people from all over the United States,” many of them focused on “where health care needs to go.”

Along with the Top 100 award, hospital CEO Bill Sheron announced another important award — the Buckingham, Doolittle and Burroughs Stellar Performance Award for 2019 — given the hospital. 

Boyes, who attended the Stellar Performance ceremony, along with Jeanine Fisher, on behalf of the hospital, said the presenters “really want to learn from their best clients wanted and were seeking information about the ‘secret sauce’ in what we do.” 

“Besides no debt, which I think is a huge piece of being wise in what we do,” Boyes said, “aside from that, I call it never being happy, and what I mean is, never being satisfied is arguably what I would say is our secret sauce.” 

“We always have that ‘we want to do better,’ ” Boyes said.

The hospital is faring well in terms of services performed, according to the statistics highlighted by Boyes for the month of May.

“Inpatient volumes continue to trail budget from prior years,” Boyes said; however, “Inpatient volumes being down is a somewhat regional event. It goes beyond just what our hospital is experiencing.”

Asked at the June 26 board of governors’ meeting whether he was “worried” about trailing admissions from month to month or “happy” those figures were balanced out by other services picking up, Boyes said, “Both.”

“I’m happy, and we always worry,” he said, adding, “I’m not overly worried because we don’t see a reason to react to.”

Overall, the hospital is faring well, Boyes said, citing other numbers representing increases.

For example, he said, “Year to date,” acute admissions “just fell shy of what we saw in 2017, and is higher than what we saw in 2016.”

Outpatient activity in May represented “the highest (monthly) level the hospital has ever reported.”

“The next three months are all expected to be at a 100 birth level,” Boyes said, and emergency department activity was “relatively strong again.”

Surgeries recorded the “highest total procedure volume this year and is really fairly busy for month of May,” he said, reflecting “really strong numbers.”

“Our year cash is steady … total reserve balances are up over where we were last year in May.”

Boyes called the fiscal status “very good,” especially “considering we were able to purchase the Western Reserve property,” which will ultimately house the hospitals’ behavioral health program.

— Reporter Linda Hall can be reached at [email protected] or 330-264-1125, Ext. 2230. She is @lindahallTDR on Twitter.

Read the original post on Wooster Daily Record here.

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