November 13, 2012
Health care reform is under way
The Affordable Health Care Act guarantees greater access to health care for most Americans, which we all are happy about. It will also be providing cuts in Medicare and Medi-Cal reimbursement to hospitals, which means two things, both of which we can turn to our advantage: hospitals will need to become more efficient, and health care providers will be incentivized to encourage prevention and work with patients to restore and maintain their health. As our mission is to improve, restore and maintain the health of everyone in our community, we welcome this.
Why? Because SVH is well positioned for the coming changes due to the fact that the majority of our patients are Medicare and Medi-Cal patients. As the PPO insurance coverage continues to decrease in other markets and is sending hospitals scrambling, we find we are more prepared than other hospitals. We have already been efficiently running our operation due to having to live on a majority of government payments – which do not cover our costs – for years.
In order to prepare for health care reform, we have affiliated and serve as a link to higher level care
We continue to upgrade our systems and reduce our overhead through technology and consolidations with other hospitals such as Marin General and Palm Drive. These affiliations are vital to our sustainability and important for our patients. Here in Sonoma, for example, we can take care of patients’ needs right here at home, through our strong network of specialists and primary care physicians who prefer to use Sonoma Valley Hospital. Many of our physician partners who work here also work in tertiary care institutions such as Marin General, or they offer their expertise through telemedicine programs. This innovative approach allows you to access sub-specialty care conveniently in your own backyard without the hassles or time requirements of using a larger institution.
Now for some examples of how we are improving health
The Affordable Care Act imposes regulations whereby the hospital will not be reimbursed if a patient is re-admitted to the hospital within 30 days. For the patient, this can be a good thing. For hospitals, it may be challenging. The nationwide re-admission rate is estimated at 25%. While our rate of re-admission is much lower than the nation, Sonoma Valley Hospital is working with our physicians, home care nurses, and discharge team to reduce the likelihood of re-admissions by improving medication use instructions, enhancing home care, and working closely with the physicians to help manage care after discharge.
Wellness has always been my passion and it is clear that it has finally taken hold in America. 94% of our staff take part in our wellness program whereby they participate in improving their current health status and reducing health risks through biometrics, health assessments, activity, and a focus on reducing stress. Staff are becoming health role models and “health is contagious!”
Finally, as the payment model known as “capitation” continues to grow in our market, physicians and health practitioners are working together to efficiently manage chronic illnesses and reduce emergency visits. This model means doctors are paid when patients are healthy as well as when they are sick. Western Health Advantage has partnered with seven North Bay hospitals and Meritage physicians to offer lower cost health insurance to our local employers. Our hope is to attract a large group of people leaving our area for care with Kaiser back to receiving care in Sonoma and supporting our hospital.
In Good Health,
President and Chief Executive Officer
Sonoma Valley Hospital