BREWER, Maine – Though the time has come for “transformative change” in the way health care is delivered and paid for in Maine and in the nation, Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems officials say they remain committed to becoming the best rural health care system in the country.
At the annual meeting of the EMHS corporators on Tuesday, board chairman George Eaton said the organization must prepare for the implementation of national health care reform, including changes in private insurance coverage, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, and the management of chronic disease.
“We are entering a new era in health care that will be defined by shared risk,” Eaton told the corporators, a 200-member group charged with providing community oversight of the organization and its affiliates.
That “shared risk” includes consumers taking more responsibility for their own health as well as physicians, hospitals and other providers playing a more definitive role in determining how to apportion limited health care dollars, he said.
Despite these changes, EMHS will continue to pursue its self-proclaimed goal of becoming the best rural health system in the nation by 2012, Eaton said, a worthwhile aspiration measured by “a laundry list of benchmarks.”
Eaton said the member hospitals and other affiliates of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems have met a number of milestones in the past year, including opening walk-in clinics at area Wal-Mart stores, launching an initiative to combat childhood obesity, and conducting the largest private fundraiser in the organization’s history to benefit the Cancer Care of Maine program in Brewer.
EMHS CEO Michelle Hood said the organization already is feeling the effect of a number of “pressure points,” including an aging clinical and administrative work force, a shortage of specialty physicians, and an emerging clinical structure that prioritizes the effective management of chronic disease on an outpatient basis.
Among other measures, Hood said, EMHS will be responding to these trends by expanding outpatient access to health care through primary care clinics and encouraging practices that promote the overall health of the population of eastern Maine.
Hood also highlighted the $12.7 million federal Beacon Community Grant awarded to EMHS by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to be used for expanding the use of health information technology and collaboration in the primary care setting.
Hood noted that EMHS member hospitals in Pittsfield and Presque Isle recently have appointed new CEOs and that a search is under way for a CEO at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital. Hood also announced the upcoming retirement of Leonard Giambalvo, longtime general counsel at the organization, and the appointment of Chief Compliance Officer Glenn Martin to take his place.
In a vote prior to the meeting Tuesday, the corporators unanimously endorsed a list of new and reappointed corporators and board members. The same slates were approved later Tuesday at a meeting of the EMHS board of directors.