Importance and Uncertainty of Community Healthcare

We can all agree healthcare is complex, yet needed to serve people in all communities. This becomes increasingly difficult given the myriad healthcare networks merging or being acquired. What can be done to ensure healthcare stays in our community?

This is an important question for all to discern – more so based on uncertainty with virtually all healthcare networks in Northeast Wisconsin. Here is a quick review:

  • Aurora Health Care recently merged with Advocate Health Care. Mergers bring uncertainty.
  • Bellin Health recently named a new CEO. A new CEO brings uncertainty.
  • HSHS–Eastern Wisconsin Division of Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS)/Prevea Health recently had leadership changes within their hospital network. Leadership changes bring uncertainty.
  • Holy Family Memorial recently named a new CEO. A new CEO brings uncertainty.

While each circumstance brings opportunities and positive changes, each brings uncertainties. In the end, a community should expect three key items from any healthcare network. First relates to quality, second pertains to cost, and third is about experience.

Quality is expected. Patients expect board-certified providers, low rates of infection and re-admission, and the highest quality care. Cost begins with competitive costs and would ideally have transparent costs through bundled procedures of common services such as orthopedics; and end with accurate and efficient patient billing.

Experience was discussed in this column in September. This is a patient’s entire visit from scheduling an appointment, arriving, having short wait times, experiencing great patient care, and having fantastic follow-up. It also offers the opportunity to provide real-time feedback and is a compilation of the quality and cost components.

Success in each of these community expectations is dependent upon the healthcare network having integrated care and good communication among its clinics, staff and providers; measuring outcomes and costs for every patient; developing bundled procedures and pricing transparency; integrating care delivery systems; growing excellent services; and enabling an effective technology platform.

An item not yet mentioned as it may be more of a “want” versus an expectation is Catholic healthcare. Catholic healthcare began from a mission to serve the under-privileged, poor and others deemed “forgotten” in our communities. For those that may not be aware, individuals can still be denied healthcare in some healthcare networks unless they go to an Emergency Department as all Emergency Departments are required to accept all patients.

Catholic healthcare’s mission is focused on serving everybody, regardless of ability to pay. This is a major difference in an under-served community or one having a large elderly/aging population.

For Holy Family Memorial, this is why maintaining Catholic healthcare in our community is important. It relates to our mission and 119-year commitment to our community. It also allows us to consider strategic partnerships with other organizations who share similar values.

The partnerships maintain Catholic healthcare in our community, while also allowing us to expand and/or offer more clinical services or additional providers. Another key for community healthcare is having providers live in the community they serve, keeping care local. Conversely, others may have providers who live elsewhere, directing patient care and services out of our local community.

Unfortunately, some networks are not able to keep the three elements of cost, quality and experience within the community. They may offer one or two of these but need to send patients outside of the community for care which can negatively affect a community.

While healthcare is a large expense for individuals and families, healthcare organizations also benefit communities because healthcare networks are typically large employers and tax payers – generating a lot of economic development for communities. Patients are better with healthcare choice, and communities’ benefit from a few networks.

Regrettably, too many networks in a community actually increase healthcare costs, lower quality, and weaken a community. This has occurred in several markets across the U.S., resulting in many mergers and acquisitions within the healthcare industry.

Let us appreciate the quality healthcare from organizations such as Holy Family Memorial and Aurora in our community, embrace their similarities, and understand their differences. Recognize neither is perfect and each strives for quality, cost, experience. This is how valuable collaboration and healthcare sustainability will continue in our communities.

About the author.

David Yeghiaian is the Chief Culture & Strategy Officer at Holy Family Memorial. Reach him at dyeghiaian@hfmhealth.org.