AGH Strategic Plan Centers On Adapting For Growth

OCEAN CITY – Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) told the Mayor and Council this week it’s planning ahead to accommodate the evolution of the surrounding community and changing dynamics of health insurance coverage.

AGH President Michael Franklin presented the public and the council the hospital’s five-year strategic plan.

“Over the last five years, we were very diligent in trying to create a structure of health care in this community that is specifically designed around the needs of this community, and the people that live in it,” Franklin said. “Going through the health care reform, you’re going to see our plan change, and how we respond to that change.”

Making the observation that Ocean City’s community contains a lot of retirees and visitors, AGH is focusing on the aspects directly related to the surrounding population.

Between 2006 and 2010, the hospital’s focus was on specific service areas, such as woman’s health, orthopedics, cancer cure, cardiac and vascular, pulmonary medicine, diabetes and wound care.

During that time, the medical staff membership at Atlantic General Hospital increased more than 25 percent.

“Through our efforts with providing services to our visiting population, we have increased the community perception of our health care services in this region…10 to 15 percent over our previous five years which is a huge move,” Franklin said.

By focusing on the surrounding population, Franklin said there has been a lot more generosity given by the community through donations.

Patients who had stayed in the hospital overnight during the time frame of January 2009 to December 2010 were surveyed. The outcome displayed positive results in response.

When asked if the patients would recommend AGH to family and friends, 77 percent responded yes. That was the highest percentage out of all surrounding hospitals.

AGH’s goals during the next five year stretch of 2011-2015 is to focus on principles and the environment in which care is delivered, to continue the advancement of those services through patient-centered care and to adopt the “E” strategy.

“We’re going to continue what we have been doing,” Franklin said. “But we’re going to have to focus on those things that make us better on providing those health care services, making us more efficient.”

The “E” strategy is to develop efficient and effective delivery models that improve coordination and quality of care, as well as to be responsive to regulatory and payment reform measures and to utilize information technology in doing so.

According to Franklin, Worcester County’s population increase will pose challenges to the hospital. He said the county is estimated to grow more than 6 percent between 2010 and 2015. Nearly 25 percent of the county’s residents are 65 and older, and 70 percent of the county’s residents are overweight, 31 percent being obese.

“Those are health issues that we are going to need to address…we’ll be working on that through our strategic plan,” Franklin said.

Franklin said AGH’s goal is to focus everything around the patient.

“To make sure patients, families, and caregivers are supported through everything we do,” Franklin said. “We are providing resources in the community to people to access the care that they need when they need that care … so people can achieve their optimal state of awareness.”

The facility’s initiatives, outlined in the strategic plan, include establishing an AGH Cancer Cure Center. The expansion will include radiation oncology and holistic therapies. AGH also looks to establish an observation unit to reduce medical and surgical short-stay admissions.

The hospital will relocate the intensive care unit in anticipation of increased patient bed requirements. Plans also call for the relocation of administrative offices to facilitate expansion of clinical service areas as well as provide enhanced parking and patient drop-off and pick-up convenience.

“Building a hospital is really one of the most expensive types of buildings you can undertake,” Franklin said. “So we want to figure out how to keep the current facility the size it is and change how things are distributed inside.”

Other measures AGH plans to take to become even more successful is to establish an integrated electronic health record throughout the entire AGH system; delivering care throughout the health system while maintaining economic stability in uncertain times; achieving continued improvement of scores in the community rating of AGH care; improving relationships between physicians and hospital leadership; and maintaining employee satisfaction and pride in working at the hospital.