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Creating a plan for KershawHealth’s future

Posted: February 7, 2014 4:03 p.m.
Updated: February 10, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Benjamin Franklin famously remarked, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” That thought is as true today as it was more than two centuries ago, and it’s as important for organizations as it is for individuals. Planning allows both people and organizations to identify strengths, recognize challenges, maximize resources, and plot a course for the future.

The temptation in uncertain times is to postpone planning until the situation stabilizes. That, unfortunately, can prove to be a fatal mistake. With that caveat in mind, KershawHealth’s Board of Trustees, administration and leadership team are moving forward to develop a strategic plan for the organization. We will be putting this strategic plan together by synthesizing the input from our key stakeholders throughout the community and focusing our strategic attention to the areas that will have the most impact.

KershawHealth is unique in the broad range of services it provides and its wide geographic footprint. Community hospitals I’ve had experience with simply don’t have both of those advantages. Strategic planning allows us to tie those two strengths together in a way that best benefits this community.

The healthcare industry is facing daunting challenges on three particular fronts. First, no one knows exactly what the full impact of the Affordable Care Act will be, although it is certain to result in millions more Americans having access to health insurance. That will likely lead to a corresponding increase in the use of healthcare services.

How will this growing demand for access to care be met, especially given the fact that the U.S. already faces a shortage of caregivers and providers in many areas? What role will hospitals, outpatient centers, and retail clinics play in the delivery of care? The answers to those questions are going to be especially critical for local hospitals which are integral to delivering care along with the continuum of other providers in a community.

Second, reimbursements for care are being reduced, both by government payers like Medicare and Medicaid, and by private insurance companies. Hospitals in South Carolina have faced nearly a 10 percent reduction in Medicaid reimbursements during the past three years. Patients themselves are being asked to bear a greater portion of the cost of care, through higher deductibles and premiums.

At the same time that they are dealing with declining payments, hospitals are adjusting to the shift from the old fee-for-service model of reimbursement to a new value-based purchasing model that ties payments for services to patient outcomes and quality metrics. In addition, hospitals are facing the rapidly accelerating shift from inpatient care to outpatient services, which typically offer lower payments.

Finally, hospitals face increasing costs -- for technology, salaries and other services. The move to electronic medical records alone can cost individual hospitals millions of dollars. Replacing equipment like MRIs and CT scanners can, again, cost millions. Hospitals are typically one of the largest organizations in a community, and also employ many highly-skilled, highly-paid professionals. None of these costs are trending down.

This triple impact -- rising costs, declining payments and increased demand for care -- is creating a system that is simply not sustainable. Not sustainable for the industry as a whole, nor for KershawHealth. The organizations that survive must develop creative alternatives for healthcare delivery. But to be successful, those alternatives must deliver on the public’s expectations for care.

The ultimate objective for KershawHealth is providing quality care for all the people of this community. Key to the success of any delivery model is local support, and it will be essential for KershawHealth moving forward. Does the community trust and value what this local hospital offers? Is it their first choice for care? If it is, then success, not only for the hospital, but for the overall health of our community, is much more certain.

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