EMHS boss says patients need to be ‘partner in their own care’ to lower costs

Posted June 11, 2014, at 5:15 p.m.
EMHS President and CEO Michelle Hood
Bridget Brown | BDN
EMHS President and CEO Michelle Hood

BREWER, Maine — Come 2020, health care organizations across the country will be looking to Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems as a model, its leader vowed Wednesday during the annual meeting of corporators.

EMHS President and CEO Michelle Hood said the system will continue its shift toward new ways of treating and educating people in hopes of keeping them away from the hospital.

Hospitals need to stop discharging patients and leaving them alone, and instead help them be a “partner in their own care,” Hood said. People recover better at home and benefit more from being in charge of their own health with guidance and help from medical professionals, she argued.

These shifts are part of the hospital’s “triple aim” — improving health for the population, better care for individuals and lowering cost of care. Those cost reductions will come from predictive analytics, wise investments and partnerships among health care organizations.

Hood cited the example of employees with EMHS health plans and their dependents. Among that group, hospital admissions have dropped 27 percent and emergency room visits by 8 percent, she said, attributing the decline to wellness programs and education efforts. She said dramatic changes could occur if similar results are seen in the system’s patients rather than employees.

During her presentation to corporators at the system’s Cianchette Building, Hood said that many small hospitals in the state are operating “under water.” In 2013, about 60 percent of Maine hospitals were operating at a loss. The fiscal picture wasn’t as gloomy for EMHS, which saw its revenues exceed expenses by $63.5 million, up about $200,000 from the previous year.

The corporators are 200 men and women from across the nine counties served by EMHS. The volunteer group is meant to hold the EMHS Board of Directors accountable and elect directors and corporators jointly with the board.

Hood said Maine has a fragile health care ecosystem and a high demand for services across the state. She said she saw it as the responsibility of EMHS to protect these health care systems where they otherwise might fail.

The next few years will see a “tidal wave of change” for the system and its eight member hospitals, nine nursing homes and other health organizations employing more than 10,000 Mainers, EMHS Board Chairman Jim Nicholson said.

“Hospitals aren’t just four walls anymore,” Hood said. “They’re reaching into communities in ways we never saw in the past.”

 

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