AGH Growing Services Throughout Health System

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OCEAN CITY – Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) President/CEO Michael Franklin has been making the rounds this month, updating the various governments in Worcester County on hospital’s present and future.

Franklin came before the Ocean City Mayor and City Council the first week of January to brief officials on the current state of the hospital and to inform them AGH has continued to grow services in the last year.

For example, he said the Intensive Care Unit has been expanded by incorporating telemedicine into intensive care so that patients have provisions in the room with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Digital Mammography Services have been added to the Woman’s Health Center, which provides better service and comfort for woman receiving their annual screenings.

Other areas of improvement include AGH’s Ophthalmology Center and Outpatient Infusion Center where comprehensive infusion or transfusion services are provided including chemotherapy.

“We are now providing chemotherapy administration at the hospital so people do not have to travel for those types of services,” Franklin said.

AGH’s technological advances over the last year include an electronic archive of paper records, an upgrade to the Allscripts Electronic Health Record, a Customer Relationship Management Database Project and a new and improved website.

“Our medical records all being electronic is going towards getting rid of the paper and becoming more green … and making sure we are maximizing the federal sponsored dollars getting to the meaningful use standards associated with electronic medical records,” Franklin said.

AGH’s 10th Street Medical Center in Ocean City has increased its occupational medicine by 36 percent over last year by adding services like X-rays, equipment for drug screenings, lab work, lift assessments, audiometry, BAT testing and vision testing. There has also been a 145-percent increase in Ancillary Services in the last year, which 140 percent of that is accredited to an increase in contracts with Ocean City.

“So we brought the services over here to make sure they are more convenient, accessible, and efficient for the town to function,” Franklin said.

AGH’s Emergency Department has continued to offer its 30-minute promise in the last year by redesigning the patient flow. This mechanism made a difference especially in in August, where in 2010 about 70 percent of patients were being treated compared to 2011 when there were about 89 percent.

“You can see we have gotten a whole lot better in making sure that those people that are here visiting the resort that if they have an emergency they don’t spend the rest of their vacation in our emergency room,” Franklin said.

Franklin said that physician recruitment is an important element for any community in making sure the area’s infrastructure supports the people who want to live or live in the community. AGH has added a number of physicians in the last year including 22 independent health care providers.

Also, in the past year AGH was able to give back almost $1.8 million for services such as financial assistance for medical bills, health fairs and free screenings and has received a number of awards over the last year.

“It is just not about our service but we are also providing high quality health care to the people in our community, and it all stems from our strategic plan,” Franklin said.

The strategic plan Franklin referred to is the “E” Strategy, which is a focus on the environment of care provided and improving the way it is delivered be developing efficient and effective delivery models that improve coordination and quality of care, to be responsive to regulatory and payment reform measures and to utilize information technology in doing so.

“The physicians and care givers have all the information they need all the time no matter where they are so we don’t make any mistakes and the patients get better faster,” Franklin said

Franklin furthered that by taking the electronic environment into physicians’ offices and in the hospitals, working with independent physicians in the health care system, and creating an environment around an outpatient medicine called Patient Centered Medical Home is a way to prepare for the future.

“In creating a Patient Centered Medical Home for those particularly with chronic illness … we create a better health care environment where people are able to take care of themselves better, and where they have an improved connection with their health care providers,” Franklin said.

Looking ahead, AGH has been working with the Health Department in reviewing how well the community ranks in health compared to the State of Maryland and U.S. statistics.

“Worcester County compares unfavorably to both Maryland and the United States,” Franklin said. “There are a lot of health issues we need to work on in Worcester County and in this community.”

In the future, AGH will be facing issues with changes from the federal government and health care reform. One of those issues has to do with readmission rates and their effect on reimbursements. Hospitals, along with nursing facilities, across the country are using transitional care to keep patients from returning to the hospitals. In fiscal year 2013, hospitals will be penalized by 1 percent for high readmissions rates under the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, in 2014, they will face a 2-percent penalty, and in 2015 a 3-percent penalty.

Another issue is the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and the increase in Medicaid recipients. Prediction models based on reasonable projections indicate that the number of additional people enrolling in Medicare under health reform may vary by more than 10 million. Estimated federal spending for new Medicaid enrollees ranged from $34 billion to $98 billion annually. It is also projected that 4,500 to 12,100 new physicians will be needed to care for new enrollees.

“So we are going to continue to struggle in dealing with that population and dealing with how do we afford to take care of that population as taxpayers and a community, and how we provide the resources so that the population receives the health care that they need,” Franklin said.

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