The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 23, 2013

A doctor in the house

St. Mary’s looks inside in order to implement changes in community health care offerings

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center will spend 2013 improving its coverage and simplifying record-keeping, said Stan Tatum, hospital administrator.

Tatum said the hospital is pursuing a restart of its University of Oklahoma Family Residency program. The hospital had one from 1976 until 2008. He predicted Enid and the surrounding area will obtain new primary care physicians through that program.

Tatum said it would be one of the secondary programs of the hospital that would be key in an effort to try and respond to the shortage of primary care physicians.

“Oklahoma is the number one state in shortage of primary care physicians,” Tatum said. “(State) Governor (Mary) Fallin has listed it as a priority.”

One major improvement the hospital will make in 2013 is internal, with a new electronic health records system. Installation of the patient information system is scheduled this week, Tatum said.

Chief Nursing Officer Doug Coffey said the system will consolidate information into an overall record, providing more access to providers. It is designed to help implement best practices for patient care, Tatum said.

“Our goal is to get patients better and healthier,” Tatum said.

By integrating all of a patient’s information into one system treatment is safer. If there is a mismatch of drugs or other problems the system will find it. It also provides better affordability of care. All information will remain private, he said.

Tatum said the health care industry is behind other industries in capability and is in the process of catching up.

Focusing on care

St. Mary’s recently announced a new hospitalist program. That process will enable the hospital to take pressure off doctors by having the hospital’s physicians, or hospitalists, concentrate care on those seriously ill.

“Patients who come into the hospital are very sick. To have someone whose sole focus is treating inpatients, they receive better and more timely care,” Tate said. “It will be a big benefit to the hospital and our patients.”

Physician recruitment is always a primary goal, Tatum said. He considers the hospital fortunate because it has recruited 10 physicians in the past 18 months. Some Enid physicians are nearing retirement age, plus Enid is growing, and St. Mary’s is definitely targeting primary care physicians and specialists. Primary care and neurologists are a huge need, and doctors practicing in areas of pulmonary and general surgery, orthopedics and pediatrics also are in high demand.

The hospitalist program helps in that regard, because it offers those who do not have a physician peace of mind when it comes to being treated in-patient.

Krista Roberts, chief operating officer, said one of the most common queries from individuals new to the community is access to primary care physicians.

With hospitalists, St. Mary’s can be more productive and see more patients. The traditional model of primary care is becoming nontraditional, Roberts said. St. Mary’s is planning to contract with a company that employs hospitalists and covers  hospitalist services 24 hours a day, she said.

Many patients who come to the emergency room do not have a primary care doctor. The hospitalist will act as that patient’s physician while they are in the hospital and will recommend a local physician when they leave. They are also discussing how they align past acute care services to prevent recidivism to the hospital, Tatum said.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, puts a focus on continuum of care.

In the past, care often stopped when the patient was discharged. Now the hospital will be penalized if readmittance rate goes above a level set in the new law, Tatum said.

“We make sure our patients get followup care that is timely,” he said.

For example, when a person with congestive heart failure is discharged physicians must continue to monitor fluid retention and followup on that patient’s needs before he or she has to return to the hospital, he said.

A changing future

St. Mary’s plans to place two physicians in Kingfisher, through St. Mary’s Physicians Association as part of an overall goal to increase care in rural areas, Tatum said.

The hospital industry is changing to value-based system to meet federal government quality criteria.

It’s part of the process, Tatum said, of ensuring quality care, which St. Mary’s has offered for years ... and has the awards to prove it.

During 2012 St. Mary’s received a number of national awards from hospital rating groups for patient safety, low readmission rates for primary patients. They also were cited for a communications system developed by St. Mary’s staff and received a top quality award for the second year in a row.