Last week, as I walked through our clinic, I recognized the daughter of a friend of mine. Now grown, she was at Lakewood with her own daughter for a well-child check-up. We had a chance to visit briefly before they were called into their appointment.
As I walked away, I was struck by how quickly time passes. Our children grow up and then suddenly they have children of their own. I instantly thought of my own children and the many children that have been born here at Lakewood in the 31 years that I have been here. Where else, I thought, other than Lakewood, would I have the opportunity to be so closely connected to the communities and people we serve and to watch as second and even third generations come into our care?
I know these feelings are shared by our employees, who consider it an honor and a privilege to care for their neighbors, friends and new faces alike. As we begin our 75th year of operation, we remain committed to our mission to provide quality, personalized care for a lifetime.
I am frequently asked if Lakewood is considering becoming a part of a larger, regional healthcare system. The short answer is no. Our Board of Directors has specifically stated that our goal is to remain an independent, integrated, community-driven healthcare organization.
The unique challenges of the past few years have more than proven our ability to stand on our own and to adjust to a changing economic landscape. Healthcare, like other service industries, has no doubt been affected by the economic downturn. The loss of jobs and corresponding loss of health insurance coverage, higher deductibles, shrinking home values and mortgage foreclosures all impacted the use of health care services both across the country and at Lakewood.
This economic downturn caused more patients to be unable to pay the cost of their services and several declared bankruptcy. During 2010, the cost of our Community Assistance Program (CAP), which offers discounts based on ability to pay, increased $1.3 million and our bad debt expense increased an additional $1.1 million. Rather than increase our fees to totally cover these unexpected expenses, we worked to reduce our expense to help cover this $2.4 million in lost income.
Despite these losses, Lakewood remains a strong, vital, regionally-respected healthcare provider. We have not only weathered the storm, but have undertaken initiatives and implemented innovative programs to further strengthen our services and our financial position. We are confident in our ability to thrive regardless what the future of healthcare may bring. Demand for our services continues to grow and much of our efforts are geared directly toward increasing our value, quality and service to you.
By December 2011, we estimate a total of ten new physicians and physician assistants will join Lakewood Health System. The physicians who were out on leave during 2010 are all returning in 2011. We hired two new Physician Assistants this fall: Megan Oestreich and Kelli Gibbs. We have new Family Practice physicians joining us in 2011, including Dr. Steven Andersen, who started in January, and Dr. Berit Amundson and Dr. Jordan Moe, who will start in the fall of 2011. Dr. Jay Lenz, a surgeon from Duluth, is currently here one week a month and is considering joining us in the future. We are interviewing for an additional OB/GYN physician, Pediatrician, Dermatologist, and Women’s Health and Behavioral Health Nurse Practitioners and additional Family Practice physicians. A new midwife recently signed. We are proud to say that we are successfully growing our medical staff to meet the growing needs of those we serve.
With all of this recruitment taking place, and because of the feedback we’ve heard from our patients, we are happy to announce that we have extended the clinic hours at our Staples Clinic to evenings and Saturdays. The clinic is now open Monday through Thursday evenings until 8:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to noon. This increased access will provide more convenient options for you in times when you need it most.
We continue to add new services to meet your needs. We have expanded the Pillager clinic and built a new clinic in Browerville. We are looking at expanding the existing main campus in the next five years to handle our growth in medical staff. Our Foundation will be pursuing a capital campaign to assist with our continual renovation of our senior campus. In 2010, we had a record number of annual Emergency Department visits (more than 7,000) and births (nearly 400). We have added full Electroencephalogram (EEG) services and ultrasound services are available 24/7. We have increased access to our behavioral health services and have developed a new palliative care program for those with chronic conditions requiring more active care. We are pleased with our new Joint Connection program (for total knee replacements) and look forward to expanding orthopedic services in the near future. We appreciate hearing your ideas about new programs or services to potentially offer.
For the second consecutive year, we significantly limited our rate increases to help keep costs down for our patients. We engaged employees in a process of redesigning how we handle our day-to-day work, and were able to reduce many expenses – while not impacting quality. This will also help us greatly with healthcare reform as aspects of the proposed model will result in less pay for more work. Taking this proactive approach not only keeps rates down, but positions us well for the future. We did meet our 2010 financial goal, and are proud that we have never levied any tax dollars, and have been financially self-sufficient since we became a district facility in 1973.
QUALITY, QUALITY, QUALITY
Nowhere is quality more essential than in healthcare. It is the focus of everything we do. From efficiency efforts, safety, employee engagement and physician recruitment to external quality measures, continuing education, and a willingness to listen to our patients—quality is the fuel that drives our engine. We hold ourselves accountable and measure our performance through several state and national programs. We are proud of the recognition these efforts have received during the past year:
· The physicians, under the direction of Medical Director, Dr. John Halfen, received the Minnesota Hospital Association Medical Innovation of the Year Award for the development of Lakewood’s Medical Home program.
· Our Care Center continues to have one of the highest Medicare scores for Minnesota facilities, presently receiving 18 out of 20 stars.
· Our patient satisfaction scores are some of the highest in the country with our hospital nursing staff receiving a national award for responsiveness to patient concerns.
· Our 2010 employee engagement scores are among the highest in the nation, according to an annual survey conducted by the Gallup Organization. Studies show that the more employees are engaged in their work, the greater the quality outcomes for our patients.
But our greatest pride comes from the people and families we serve—from treating each and every one of you with the dignity, respect, and care you deserve. Thank you for your support of Lakewood Health System. We are truly proud and honored to be your home for healthcare.
Lakewood Health System