GUEST COLUMN: Barton wellness provider discusses future of healthcare | TahoeDailyTribune.com

GUEST COLUMN: Barton wellness provider discusses future of healthcare

As South Shore’s primary wellness provider, Barton Health is looking at 2012 optimistically by addressing wellness education, patient access and improving care.

Many have questions about healthcare reform. While a great deal of unknowns exists, I’d like to share what we do know to help you make educated health-decisions. In March of 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care and Health Care Act and the Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 were signed by President Obama. Healthcare reform was designed to address three main issues: 1) increase access to healthcare; 2) improve patient quality; and 3) reduce cost.

As hospitals rely on patient insurance coverage, the reform bill is a double-edged sword. On one end, the result is an increase of insured patients and on the other end, insurance companies are expected to reimburse the hospital at a lower rate. Outpatient care will grow as more of the uninsured have access multiple healthcare facilities. With this in mind, Barton is proactively seeking extended healthcare services, while meeting the bill’s requirements.

Our priorities lie in addressing healthcare reform, enhancing medical services and working with community partners. Our key focuses for 2012 include: Implementation of an electronic medical record system, conducting a community health needs assessment, securing the designation of a Level III trauma center, implementation and expansion of specialty services and innovation and recruitment.

To meet healthcare reform requirements, Barton is implementing an electronic medical record system. The Electronic Privacy Information Center system will provide easy access to health information for caregivers including lab work, medications and X-rays, enabling seamless transfers of patient medical records from one facility to another.

Another aspect of healthcare reform is quality measurement and consistency of care they deliver through a program called Value Based Purchasing. The VBP program rewards hospitals for improving overall patient experience. As a result of scoring, federal government will redistribute funds from the poor performing hospitals and reward the hospitals with the high scores. With this in mind, we will continue to provide patients with exemplary care.

Recommended Stories For You

The Community Health Needs Assessment also is part of healthcare reform, fashioned to identify health issues in the greatest need of support. Throughout the next several months, Barton will be identifying barriers to healthcare access, preventative care, health risks and quality-of-life issues. The results will be addressed and, with assistance of community partners, we will create and support programs to tend to the most vital healthcare needs of individuals and families in our community.

Barton Memorial Hospital, along with the region’s emergency medical service response team, is working to establish Barton Memorial Hospital’s emergency department as a Level III trauma center. El Dorado County Public Health has given Barton approval to begin trauma operations, with official designation by spring of 2013. This designation will improve overall quality-of-care for trauma patients and allow them to stay in the area for treatment, rather than being transferred to medical facilities outside the area.

Barton Health is on its way to creating an orthopedic center of excellence with Tahoe Center for Orthopedics. Comprised of orthopedic surgeons, nurses, sports medicine specialists and support staff, TCO offers a first-rate patient experience. In 2011, we remodeled our private-patient-rooms at Barton Memorial, added a pre-operative education component, hired a dedicated nurse to the care of orthopedic surgical patients and a home-visit rehabilitation program.

In 2011, Barton recruited a physiatrist from the Mayo Clinic, an audiologist and introduced dedicated cardiac services. We plan to expand our telemedicine services allowing for patients to receive remote specialty consultations with the help of a grant from Access El Dorado. This grant will help bring new equipment to our facilities and provide endocrinology, psychiatry, cardiology, neurology, dermatology and infectious disease consultations.

Barton’s mission is simple – support local residents regardless of their insurance coverage or ability to pay. With 16.7 percent unemployment in South Lake Tahoe, Barton is committed to offering free to low-cost wellness programs and services including health screenings, lectures and flu shots. As our patient count at Barton’s Community Clinic continues to grow, the expansion and renovation of the existing facility is underway. And, we’re addressing our economy and patient financial needs our Helping Hands financial assistance program. Additionally, we continue to give back through Barton’s Community Advisory Committee – awarding nearly $75,000 in grants to oral and mental health, obesity, nutrition and physical fitness programs.

As we pursue the health status of our community our 2012 goals are aggressive, both economically and medically. Our partnership with the Lake Tahoe Basin Prosperity Plan will help create a more resilient economy, while supporting the revitalization of environmental quality and improved standard of living for our residents. Through growth, we look forward to supporting you and your well-being for decades to come.

– John G. Williams is the president and CEO of Barton Health