Healthwise: Changes in Patient Care

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

May 19, 2010

These days, the mood at Martha Jefferson Hospital could be described as 'the calm before the storm.' A new hospital is being built, and officials are examining the way they help people heal, in anticipation of health care policies going into effect.

"When you think about it, the hospital is really the most expensive way to deliver care. So, the more we can do to think about new models where you can keep the patient out of hospitals, is the way to go," said Amy Black, a VP Chief Nurse Executive.

Officials at Martha Jefferson expect a surge of patients as more people become insured though Health Care Reform. While they do anticipate an initial physician shortage, hospital officials say the type and scope of care will not be determined by insurance policy.

The key, doctors say, will be making sure tests are not over-done, and keeping return trips to the hospital at a minimum.

"We're going to be very focused on being able to demonstrate that we have those outcomes; that we do provide better value for the cost of health care, that we can show that we are able to keep people out of the hospital, that we have better readmission rates, that we're able to show we have lower infection rates, and we're able to show we have better patient satisfaction," said Black.

The lasting effect? We could see a shift in the way health care providers treat patients who need long-term care. And at Martha Jefferson, they're focusing on the hospital's Care Partner Program.

"Who is going to be with that patient when they leave the hospital and go home and have to take care of themselves? And also, who can be with them during their hospital stay?" said Black.

The hospital is also preparing to facilitate more conversations about end of life care.

"We spend the most amount of money in the last six months of life and you have to ask the question, and it's a tough question, but is that really where we should be spending our money?" said Black.

Officials say the re-admission rate at Virginia hospitals is 18.8 percent, compared to 13.6 percent at Martha Jefferson. Regardless, Martha Jefferson will continue to work to offer the best care in the most cost-effective way.

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