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VIA panel discusses health care

Leaders from the local medical community discuss changes in the industry

Posted: September 22, 2011 12:01 p.m.
Updated: September 23, 2011 12:01 p.m.

The Valley Industry Association sponsored a panel discussion on medical and health care issues at a luncheon Tuesday. The panelists were, from left, Andrei Nikitin, moderator, Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Health Foundation; Bill Gil, president and CEO, Facey Medical Foundation; Jonathan Emerson, association administrator, Providence Holy Cross Me...

A discussion on health care and health care reform, led by a group of panelists from the medical community, was the focus of the Valley Industry Association's luncheon Tuesday.

Health care in the last 10 years has changed so dramatically," said Jonathan Emerson, association administrator for Providence Holy Cross medical center.

Going forward the medical community will be paid based on making patients well rather than being paid "by the test," Emerson said.

Another shift taking place to improve patient care is the move away from a "physician centric" care model to a focus on delivering better quality care to patients for less money, said Bill Gil, president and CEO of Facey Medical Foundation.

A fee for service environment doesn't necessarily add value to patient care but the challenge is how to deliver better care for less.
"We are the highest cost deliverer of health care in the world," said Roger Seaver, CEO of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.

The strategic issues in healthcare are people and capital, he said.

Health care is a fragmented business, Gil said. There are doctors in private practice, hospitals, pharmaceutical and biomedical companies and others all working independent from the other, but health care reform is going to push us to do the right thing and work together.

"Right now, we don't play well in the sandbox," Gil said.

Henry Mayo has been working with Facey to coordinate efforts but there is still room for more integration, Seaver said.

"We're competitors and collaborators in this industry," he said.

Electronic medical records
Facey implemented electronic medical records in 2002 and is now developing a patient portal to give patients access to care information and records.

It would be good to figure out how to provide preventative care without the patient needing to always visit a doctor, but the challenge is to figure out how to get paid, Gil said.

The largest single investment in the last five years has been for electronic medical records, said Seaver. The hospital has spent some $20 million and will probably hit $25 million in costs before it's done.

"We won't see a monetary return until the next decade but we all agree transportable medical records are an important investment," he said.

Standardizing care will also be an important factor by creating more transparency and holding everyone accountable in documentation. A comprehensive coordination of care is needed moving forward, Gil said.

Affordable Care Act
A lot of regulation doesn't necessarily equate to improve health care, the panelists said.

"Who will pay health care providers in the future has never more unclear," Seaver said.

While he would like to support health care reform, Seaver said he believes that regulations may drive changes in the industry; the open market is much more likely to develop healthcare solutions much faster than regulations.

Hospitals should only be treating people who need to be treated in a hospital setting members of the panel said. Providers will need to work together to find ways to care for patients and even share payments.

Improving the process of providing care is going to be important in health care industry, Seaver said.

A focus on waste has begun in the industry by applying some of the "Lean" techniques used by manufacturers to improve effectiveness and eliminate waste, or anything not considered to be of value to a customer or in this case, patient.

Asked about the possibility of a hospital facility on the eastern side of Santa Clarita, panelists said opening a hospital is not an easy task.

"The minimum price for a 100 beds or less is $150 to $200 million for a hospital," Seaver said.

What might be a better option, Gil said, is to design mini hospitals in communities to handle the bare essentials and then redirect patients as needed to larger facilities.

Given Santa Clarita Valley's population, Seaver and Gil were asked later if another hospital would even be warranted.
Gil doesn't believe the population can support two hospitals.

Hospitals can routinely go through periods of very high patient occupancy rates followed by periods of low occupancy, Seaver said. Henry Mayo Hospital is no exception. A number of factors influence occupancy such as the number of traumas received, flu season, need for elective surgeries and more.

"On average, Henry Mayo operates on a 74 percent occupancy rate, excluding births." Seaver said.



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