Point of View

Many challenges to hospitals' sacred mission

January 7, 2013 

Irecently saw a wife – unconscious, breathing shallow – rushed into our emergency room. A team converged, tubes were placed, medications were hung. Her husband, a friend, arrived. We held hands and prayed. Care at life’s most critical moments.

Hospitals are there at moments such as these. Many, many North Carolinians have experienced the fear, the need, the caring embrace and the gratitude that follows. As the chair-elect of the N.C. Hospital Association, I have the privilege to work alongside the leaders of hospitals across the state.

I have observed their devotion to their communities and to their sacred mission. I have seen them inspired by the healers, the helpers and the amazing, brilliant and generous people who work within the walls of their organizations.

The leaders of North Carolina’s hospitals look into the future and recognize the immense challenge before us. We feel the challenge to sustain our hospitals so that they are available and accessible when that critical moment arrives. We feel the challenge to deliver the quality of care to each patient that we desire for our own family members. We feel the challenge to reduce the sometimes crippling financial burden to our patients, our industries and our government.

The leaders of North Carolina’s hospitals embrace these challenges with the knowledge that people working together can achieve unimaginable results. In communities like my own across this great state, hospital leaders are partnering in multiple endeavors to achieve success.

We are partnering with county government and other employers to reduce their health benefit costs while improving the health care of their employees. By engaging with their employees on their specific health matters, we have improved preventative care dramatically and guided employees with chronic diseases into medical homes.

We are looking at innovative models of care to deliver everything our patients need and not do things that are unnecessary. Locally, we have partnered with Universal American and Medicare to establish an Accountable Care Organization to more effectively care for traditional Medicare patients. Through this effort we have placed nurses in each doctor’s office to better coordinate care for our most fragile and complex elderly patients and have reduced expensive hospital admissions while keeping folks at home.

We are learning together as part of a larger effort supported by the N.C. Hospital Association – the Carolinas LEAN Collaborative. We are using LEAN techniques to look at how care is delivered and to aggressively eliminate waste that does not bring value to a patient.

We have generated millions in savings, assuring our continued viability in our respective communities.

And hospital leaders in North Carolina, like many others across the nation, are looking to forge value-added partnerships with larger health systems to access support and services that will make us more efficient and effective. We are bringing our talents together so that we may continue to improve the value we provide – high touch and high quality care – to our patients.

The leaders of North Carolina’s hospitals welcome the ideas, the perspectives and the assistance of business leaders, legislators, patients and payers who share a commitment for our triple aim: access to high quality care at an affordable price. In fact, we need your help.

We need your help to create incentives that drive personal accountability for healthy living and appropriate use of the health care system. We need your help to reduce the byzantine, wasteful, labor-intensive, confusing and cumbersome process of billing and collecting for services. We need your help to reduce the regulations that drain our resources, escalate our costs, distract us from patients and bring no value to healing.

We need your help so that we are available at life’s most critical moments.

On another recent day, I saw a wife smiling and beautiful in her ICU bed. Her husband struggled to express a gratitude that reached deeper than words can express.

Laura Easton is president and CEO of Caldwell Memorial Hospital Inc. in Lenoir and chair-elect of the N.C. Hospital Association Board of Trustees.

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