By editorial board • 

Moves by local hospital resist a disturbing trend

One contingent of Americans are worried about the long-term solvency of hospitals in this country, and Dan Ordyna, CEO of Willamette Valley Medical Center, is among them.

A strongly proactive hospital executive with great insight into the forces shaping health care delivery issues across the country, Ordyna said those forces and recent trends suggest there will be more hospital closures across the country. If true, the story of tomorrow for hospitals will revolve around their ability to survive in a competitive marketplace and ever-changing financial challenges directly related to rising health care costs.

Hospitals are a significant part of local economies, as evidenced by the 600-person payroll of Willamette Valley Medical Center. That’s reason enough to be happy that the local hospital is competing ahead of the curve with investments in new competencies as widespread competition becomes more intense.

One example of the hospital’s business plan recently reported in the News-Register is the $1.2 million invested in creation of a new 10-bed Senior Behavioral Health Services facility. There is a strong local need for its services, staff told the newspaper, as a number of patients from local areas have left the community for this type of in-patient care.

The new unit strikes us as a victory for a hospital that is creatively re-thinking how and which health services it provides. WVMC, like many good hospitals, continues an ongoing push for technological advances.

Last fall, the hospital implemented a comprehensive electronic recordkeeping system. The automated system is intended to enhance the patient experience, including friends and family, streamline the flow of test results and treatment orders, and improve the overall safety of the hospital.

Several factors are driving the competitive marketplace for hospitals. Costs are up, and reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid are shrinking. Health care reform and new technology, combined with modern communications, are creating more transparency and driving comparative shopping for patients looking for health care services.

In October, Medicare implemented a new hospital value-based purchasing program. Established by the Affordable Care Act, the pay-for-performance approach rewards hospitals scoring well on a variety of measures, and Willamette Valley appears to rank high by those standards.

The hospital was one of two in Oregon earning an A grade last year on a hospital safety report compiled by The Leapfrog Group. On the Medicare website comparing hospital care, Willamette Valley scored higher than the Oregon average on nine of 10 criteria.

Oddly, the lone negative on the record is “patients who reported that yes, they would definitely recommend the hospital.” Willamette Valley is at the national average of 70 percent there, while the Oregon average is 72. But if Willamette Valley continues its current aggressive, streamlined and creative track, that customer approval number should rise.

Some have said that by 2020, one-third of hospitals in America will be closed. We hope not. Meanwhile, it’s a great benefit to the community to see promise that its local hospital won’t become one of those statistics.

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