Since my last column printed in March, healthcare has been a hot topic in the news with the Supreme Court decision on national health care reform. With or without health care reform, New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) is charged with providing the best experience and outcomes for our patients while creating more healthy communities. Here are just a few updates on our progress and plans for the future.
There has been much discussion across the nation on how to reduce the cost of health care. Many will point to frequent hospital patient readmissions as an opportunity to improve quality and reduce costs. Nationwide, about 25 percent of Medicare patients who are hospitalized will be readmitted to a hospital within 30 days following their initial discharge. There are many reasons for a readmission, but all will agree our health care system can improve and must in the coming years. NUMC has worked for years to better integrate care, improve communication at discharge, and follow up with patients to ensure they are improving after leaving a hospital. As a result, our hospital readmissions have tracked well below national and state averages. Also related to health care costs, in 2012 we had an overall zero percent increase in the prices of our services to help with the affordability of health care for our patients and employers.
Advancements in Care
In the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute (VPCI)-New Ulm, we continue to add services, thanks to our relationship with the larger VPCI system, which is the number one provider of cancer care in the Twin Cities. Our cancer center was recently approved to participate in clinical trials, which means that cancer patients in our community have access to the newest therapy available for cancer treatment and symptom management, without having to travel long distances. Dr. Ettore Piroso, medical oncologist, and our entire team have worked hard to expand services and support to our patients and families.
With the paint barely dry on the cancer center project, we are planning our next expansion project in the Birth Center. Access to obstetric services is the top priority of our rural health system in Minnesota with many hospitals closing their OB units. Our current Birth Center has been challenged to meet all of the needs of our region due to limited space. Our planned renovation will provide additional labor and delivery rooms and create an environment we believe will be comforting and pleasing to our mothers and families. NUMC is the only facility in a 100 mile area (from Mankato to Marshall and from Fairmont to Hutchinson) with OB/GYN and pediatric specialists on staff, so we believe it is imperative that we invest in our Birth Center to ensure our community and region have access to the very best mother and baby care and service. Construction is due to begin in fall 2012.
of the Future
Our nation is expected to experience a severe physician and healthcare worker shortage in the next decade due to retirements and the increasing health care needs of our population. The shortages will likely vary by region with rural areas being at a disadvantage because of the continued migration of people and services into suburban communities. We have been fortunate to have a stable group of physicians and health care employees at NUMC over the years, something not found in many other communities. However, we still must look to the future and assure our region that NUMC will be a thriving healthcare organization for years to come. One strategy we have initiated to accomplish this is to start planning for and addressing our physician needs over the next ten years. Our NUMC physicians provide a considerable amount of training every year to medical students from Minnesota and Iowa. I personally meet with every medical student (10 in the past 18 months) to start a relationship by getting to know them, their future interests, and communicating with them on a regular basis. Ultimately, we are trying to identify future physicians who would fit in well and then do our best to support them during training to improve our chance that they will come back to New Ulm.
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