SPENCER - Roane General Hospital is continuing to make strides in meeting health care needs while preparing for the changes health care reform will bring.
The 60-bed critical access hospital, which opened in 1969, is implementing new technological systems and recruiting new physicians, Chief Executive Officer Douglas Bentz said.
The hospital has 35 long-term care beds and 25 acute-term care beds. There are around 22 physicians on staff. The hospital also operates a number of clinics to treat people living in the area.
Patient Mitchell McCumbers receives IV infusion from Jessica Miller, RN, at Roane General Hospital.
"Roane General Hospital continues to make strides in meeting the health care needs our community, but doing so in a difficult and challenging health care environment," Bentz said. "In 2010, we continued to make significant progress in developing our Electronic Health Record while adding a few new services to meet the needs of our community.
"While at the same time, we are faced with added financial pressures related to the economy and the enormity of the changes related to health care reform."
The federal government has set a goal for most Americans to have electronic health records in the next few years.
Electronic health records usually contain computerized versions of patients' clinical, demographic and administrative data. They may include treatment histories, medical test reports and images stored in an electronic format that can be accessed by designated health care professionals on a computer network. The goal is to have a record that doctors can call up that has a more complete picture of a patient's medical history.
"As in years past, the hospital continued to make significant progress in the development of our System Wide Health Information System," Bentz said. "This past year, we were successful in implementing an EHR in our physician practice or clinic settings.
"To date, this was by far the most challenging implementation, but one of the most successful because of our participation, support and commitment from our physicians and providers. The result has been a fully integrated electronic record that can accessed throughout the continuum of care."
The hospital was also successful in bringing new services to the community.
"This past year, we added a new infusion therapy service as well as enhancing and improving our Swing Bed Program of Care," Bentz said. "The infusion therapy service is well utilized and has eliminated the need for our patients to travel to Charleston and Parkersburg for this service."
Some of the services the department provides are blood transfusions, IV medication administration, care and maintenance of infusion ports and central lines, as well as numerous outpatient nursing treatments and education, he said.
Over the past year, the hospital has also greatly improved its Swing Bed Program of Care.
Swing beds are utilized for stroke and orthopedic rehabilitation, wound care and post acute medical treatment and rehabilitation patients.
"This past year, the hospital increased its scope of therapy services to include speech, occupational and physical therapy to seven days a week," Bentz said. "We also renovated space to allow for a larger rehabilitation room and activities space for these patients.
"The result of our efforts has led to a 25 percent increase in our inpatient census and has also allowed our community members to stay close to home rather than spending days, if not weeks, at a hospital or skilled nursing facility out of town."
The economic downturn has created significant challenges for Roane General Hospital this past year.
"Just in the last 15 months, we have seen a decrease in our commercial payor mix (Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Carelink, Aetna, etc.) by over 25 percent," Bentz said. "These patients or payors are important because they are the only ones paying above the cost of care.
"This has led to an increase in bad debt, charity, and uncompensated care for the institution which resulted our first operating loss in over 10 years. We don't expect any immediate relief in the future with the condition of our local economy."
Looking ahead into 2011, the hospital will begin the planning, preparation and implementation of measures related to national health care reform.
"The hospital is focusing on building a care delivery model that emphasizes continuity and coordination of care among the health care providers in the community," Bentz said. "With reform right around the corner, we are forced to provide more efficient and eliminate waste and duplication within the system.
"We recognize the future success of our hospital will focus on how well we provide care and not so much as how much care we provide. We will be judged on quality and not so much quantity. That is a good thing for our community and health care in general."