When you came to Huntsville Hospital nine years ago, did you envision that we would have a system as we do today?
“I certainly saw the possibility but things had to fall into place for it to happen.
Building systems is a lot of what I’ve in my health care career. When it’s done well, the system model fosters a cooperative approach that makes you more effective and efficient. The timing has been right for us.”
It seemed to develop rather quickly.
“In some ways I can understand that impression over the past three years, but what most people don’t see is that the process took several years building relationships and trust with the hospitals and communities in our region. You have to do what you commit to do. And I think we’ve done a pretty good job in that.”
Are there any components missing in the Huntsville Hospital Health System?
“Obviously, everyone thinks of hospitals first when they think of a system, but there are many other parts of the health care continuum that are very important. Post-acute services are a focus right now for us. Our strategy is to develop partnerships with people who do it well.
Another focus for our system is the Medicaid insurance component. We’re working very hard with our partners to rollout a regional care organization for Medicaid next October. Our organization is called Alabama Community Care. If we do this well, then I could see a similar opportunity down the road with the non-Medicaid population.”
So what are the big challenges you see for Huntsville Hospital Health System?
“The challenges we see at the system level are the ones we face in our respective facilities—reimbursement cuts, finding qualified staff, the incredible cost of technology and drugs, and improving the quality of the care we provide. Hopefully by working together we can address some of these issues better and less expensively than we could alone.
In our health system we’re working on linking all of our facilities together from an information technology perspective. There is tremendous complexity and variability in hospital IT systems and it’s not unusual for a hospital to have 30 to 40 subspecialty IT systems. The future will have fewer IT systems and more seamless operation. Getting there will be very challenging and very expensive.”
What is your message to the communities that are now a part of Huntsville Hospital Health System?
“We’re committed to providing quality care in our facilities across the region. We work on that every day. We have great people throughout these communities and they are very dedicated to their hospitals. We want to have facilities that they can be proud of. Quality usually improves faster than new facilities can be built. Our approach also preserves community-led health care for the people in the Tennessee Valley.”
Last question, how does the development of the Health System benefit the Huntsville community?
“One of the benefits of having a large referral hospital system is that you attract patients and their families from a large area. Our service area stretches from the Mississippi line to the Georgia line and from southern Tennessee to Cullman. Half of our patients in Huntsville Hospital are not local residents.
Having the high patient volumes that we do enables us to attract specialized physicians that we would not otherwise have. It means we can offer a level of expertise that is unique in cardiac care, trauma, neurosurgery and pediatrics, for example. All of us benefit from having these services locally.”