St. Rita’s Medical Center: Herbert Schumm, MD, Vice President of Medical Affairs

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Serving a 10-county area of mostly rural communities in west-central Ohio, St. Rita’s Medical Center has placed a large focus on sharing information through electronic medical records. The 425-bed acute-care hospital went live with a new Epic electronic medical records (EMRs) system in June, linking inpatient and outpatient services, as well as affiliated physician offices.

“The electronic medical records system provides us with a new level of being able to share not only with providers, but also with patients,” said Dr. Herbert Schumm, vice president of medical affairs.

Linking the region

St. Rita’s was the first hospital to go live with a statewide health information exchange (HIE) called Clinisync. This allows providers to share patient information between the hospital and Health Partners of Western Ohio, a federally qualified health center. The health center serves 14,000 underserved patients, providing primary medical, dental, behavioral health, and pharmacy services.

The HIE is part of Ohio’s vision to connect hospitals, physicians, labs, and others so they can exchange patient health records electronically. The venture will eventually include five other acute-care hospitals, a long-term acute-care hospital, and two independent labs.

Dr. Schumm said this is an important step in the future management of patients. As with most health systems looking toward a value-based payment system and Medicare regulations related to readmissions, St. Rita’s is exploring better ways in which it can manage the community’s wellness, rather than just treating illness.

“We need to move from an acute-care mindset to looking more at the continuum of care,” he said. “How do we better partner with other entities, agencies, extended-care facilities, and physicians to make sure transitions are smoother and to prevent readmissions?”

Electronic records and tools such as the HIE to share those records across different systems will be a key part of the future of managing patients across the continuum of care.

Gaining efficiencies through electronic tools

During the past couple of years, St. Rita’s has placed increasing focus on improving efficiencies throughout the organization. Dr. Schumm said St. Rita’s is the largest employer in the community. This creates a special responsibility for the organization to be fiscally responsible and reinvest in the community.

To prepare for a value-based payment system, Dr. Schumm said St. Rita’s is working to reduce waste in clinical services through managing length of stay, reducing harm, eliminating unnecessary tests, and avoiding duplication of tests.

St. Rita’s has a strong Operational Excellence Lean Six Sigma management program to achieve its efficiency goals. Some initiatives include a clinical-integration project, working with physicians to reduce waste in inpatient and outpatient care and standardize care according to evidence-based protocols, and a collaborative-care unit being piloted in one area to bring together pharmacy, nurses, and physicians to eliminate waste.

In 2011, the medical center centralized all billing and service-center operations for affiliated physician practices. All calls for appointments or billing inquiries go through a centralized service center, freeing up office employees to focus on patients coming through the doors. Implementing Epic in the offices has aided this effort by placing all necessary information in one place and further allowing the billing and scheduling to be done off site.

In addition to waste-reduction initiatives, St. Rita’s also works to streamline other areas of investment and capital management. One employee at the hospital oversees all equipment, evaluating life expectancy and usage to make data-based recommendations for capital-equipment investments.

Embracing change for the future

St. Rita’s has a well-established leadership team, with many members having been part of the center for more than 20 years. However, leaders at the organization embrace change and look toward ways to meet the coming challenges of reform.

“We are facing a lot of change really fast in an industry that tends not to embrace change,” Dr. Schumm said.

But, in physician surveys, engagement has remained high — about 85 percent.

“We have a culture that is willing to take chances, learn, and try new things,” he said. “We encourage individual leaders to do what needs to be done in their areas, rather than taking a dictatorial approach.”

St. Rita’s Medical Center is part of Catholic Health Partners, which helps the facility grow and learn from other organizations across the state.

“By being part of Catholic Health Partners, we can look at the bigger pictures, look at other communities and learn from what they are doing,” Dr. Schumm said.

Looking toward the next three to five years in healthcare, he sees more integration and communication of electronic health records across multiple providers and more focus on community wellness. St. Rita’s has already taken steps to accomplish both of these through participation in the HIE and through initiatives to improve the health of employees.

-by Patricia Chaney

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