Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Ray of Sunshine – New Digital Mammography

Amidst GRMC’s financial dark clouds, primarily due to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement levels, we’ve been able to find unique ways to bring our patients new technology. Our latest addition is digital mammography made possible through an agreement with Iowa Radiology. This is the radiology group we have been working with for many years, and this collaboration has been really great for GRMC and our patients.

Being a guy I may not relate to the issues that women face with this exam, but I recognize the importance of having a regular mammogram. My mother is a breast cancer survivor. Early detection, an excellent treatment plan, and a great attitude all have made for a wonderful survival story for her thankfully. GRMC’s new digital technology unit—along with the cushions for the equipment—makes for a warmer, more comfortable exam with more refined detection capabilities.

The optimist in me encourages women to be conscious that the sooner a cancer diagnosis is made, the better their outcome will be. Yet for some patients each year, the words “you have cancer” echo in horror as they receive the news. Our compassionate staff offer hope and support to the women who hear those words. Optimism clings to the knowledge that healthcare advances such as digital mammography and breast cancer treatment options are readily available and very successful.

Although no one wants to hear they have breast cancer, early detection does greatly improve the odds for a successful outcome. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. Our new digital mammography unit is just one more way that we have expanded our services to improve the lives of our patients.

For more information about mammography and the services we offer at GRMC, click here. 

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Too Important to Fail

Rural hospital CEO’s like me have a role that our counterparts in larger communities and urban areas rarely have. We usually find ourselves on contact committees for community economic development efforts, meeting with potential business leaders for possible business expansion or relocation. Competition is very high for this kind of development. I have had the good fortune to serve on the Poweshiek Iowa Development, Grinnell Renaissance, and the Waterford Group board of directors over my years here.

So, what does a hospital have to do with economic development? Plenty. Business owners consider many factors when shopping for location. Is there a supply of qualified workers? What is the real estate market? What about quality of life? Are the schools able to provide a good education? What about healthcare? No doubt, high quality and affordable healthcare is key to new business growth in any community. The goal of course is to attract new organizations to locate in our greater Poweshiek community and help grow our economy. Clearly that helps everyone…including Grinnell Regional Medical Center. Besides helping to tell the community’s story and helping to recruit new business to the area, I also have the opportunity to promote the medical center. I get valuable feedback on how we are doing. All around it is a vital part of my job.

Community hospitals in rural areas are often among the largest employers in town. We provide professional-level jobs, salaries, and wages that support the local economy. At GRMC, half my co-workers live outside of Grinnell including myself (I live in nearby Brooklyn, Iowa) and we impact the economies of several communities. GRMC is but one part in a larger healthcare sector of physician practices and their staff, pharmacies, therapists, and more. The excellent retirement communities in Grinnell rely heavily on a quality healthcare system to care for their residents who tend to use healthcare services more frequently. And, accessibility to quality health care influences the decision people make to retire to Grinnell.

It all ties back to my determination to correct the unfair Medicare payment system for tweener hospitals like GRMC, for better reimbursement rates for physicians, and more.

America’s community hospitals are too important to residents who rely on having quality, accessible, and affordable healthcare to fail. We are too important to area economic development and the local economy. We’re not asking for a bailout, we’re just asking for a level playing field.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bringing D.C. to DSM

I had the opportunity to attend the President’s Forum on Health Care Reform in Des Moines on March 23. This forum was one of four held throughout the country to gather ideas and input on what folks want to see in healthcare reform.

Sen. Tom Harkin, Rep. Leonard Boswell, Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and Nancy-Ann DeParle, the Obama administration’s health care reform advisor, were all present at this forum, moderated by Iowa Governor Chet Culver.

Tackling healthcare reform is a monumental task. There are so many layers that are interconnected. Accessibility, cost, insurance coverage, Medicare, Medicaid, facilities, and more…it’s hard to know where to begin.

Rep. Boswell made two opening comments…one about the inequity of Medicare payment between states, with Iowa at the bottom of the list and one about the Medicare tweener hospital issue that affects GRMC, seven other Iowa hospitals, and about 400 community hospitals across the country. It was great to hear our Congressman tell our story to another audience. He actually handed our advocacy materials on this issue to the new Healthcare Reform Leader in the Whitehouse, Ms. DeParle.

I feel hopeful that the beginnings of reform will happen this year and that the tweener issue will be addressed. Senate Finance Committee leaders Sen. Grassley and Sen. Max Baucus, (D-MT) are in the best position to make sure our legislation moves forward. Both have gone on record in support of fixing the unfair Medicare payment system and the situation it has created for tweener hospitals like GRMC.

I’m gearing up for another visit to Washington, D.C. in a few weeks for the annual meeting of the American Hospital Association along with several of our board members. Many of you shared some incredible stories about your experiences with GRMC for a publication I’m taking to my meetings with Congressional leaders during that time. Thank you for taking the time to do this. My intention is to put names, faces, and the words of real people who appreciate what is available at GRMC in front of these decision-makers to illustrate why communities like ours need a strong and healthy hospital.

In the meantime, I keep telling GRMC’s story to make a change for the better.