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A letter from Geisinger's president

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Six months ago, Lewistown Hospital became part of Geisinger Health System.

We don’t usually write about Lewistown, but frankly we’ve gotten a lot more interested in all things Geisinger ever since September, when the Danville-based health care powerhouse announced it is pursuing an affiliation with Holy Spirit Health System.

That general Geisinger interest was part of why we originally wrote about the Geisinger-Lewistown deal. The other part, as you’ll see when you follow that link, was that if you’re at all interested in the interplay between consolidation and antitrust issues in health care, some pretty juicy stuff happened in that deal.

Anyway, to mark the half-year anniversary, Dr. Glenn Steele Jr., Geisinger’s president and CEO, wrote a letter titled, “First Six Months Successful at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital.” I found it interesting reading, particularly given the deal’s background, so here it is for you to peruse as well.

We have reached six months since Lewistown Hospital became part of Geisinger Health System. It’s a particularly challenging time in health care with new government programs and regulations driving costs upward and decreasing reimbursement. Overall, though, things are going well at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital.
Geisinger made a huge financial commitment to Lewistown Hospital so that it could continue as a major provider of health services and the major employer in Mifflin County. Without this commitment, the hospital would have had to close programs and even patient care units; perhaps, radically redefining itself as an ambulatory facility only.
During the merger process, our promise to the community was to build the local clinical platform to ensure the availability of advanced specialty services in the Lewistown area. We are already treating more patients locally rather than transferring them out of the area to other facilities. We are hard at work to grow clinical programs, enhance services and invest in the hospital campus. Here are some of the improvements to date:
• A new Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michael Hegstrom, is in place and partnering with Chief Administrative Officer Kay Hamilton to lead the hospital.
• We have recruited a new neurosurgeon, Dr. Bryan Bolinger, who will be joining the Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital team in July.
• We have invested $1.3 million to date on capital equipment, including a hematology analyzer, vital signs monitors, metabolic cart for pulmonary, new colonoscopy scopes and a C-arm to allow for high end gastroenterology procedures, and an information technology upgrade at TLC Pharmacies.
• Funds have also been released for the planning of the emergency department, radiology and Big Valley renovations, plus a CT simulator.
• All Geisinger-FHA offices will be on the EPIC electronic health record in June and Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital by March 2015.
We are evaluating how best to update and expand the hospital’s neurophysiology lab capabilities and are building our relationship with University Orthopaedics. In addition, we continue to actively recruit for primary care physicians as well as specialists in neurology, pulmonary and cardiology.
Unfortunately, despite several months of negotiations with Service Employees International Union for a new contract for the hospital’s environmental services, food services and maintenance employees, we remain without a new agreement. The stumbling block is the union’s insistence that the hospital support the union’s pension plan, which we don’t believe is prudent. Our offer provided an alternative for retirement and better salary increases and benefits than the hospital’s SEIU represented employees have seen in years.
Moving forward, we will continue to fulfill our promise and work to enhance health care here in the Lewistown community.

The bit about the union particularly interests me, because I’ve been getting vague intimations that health care union negotiations have been growing more contentious than they used to be, but I haven’t really heard anything locally. Compared to, say, UPMC, Lewistown is pretty close to home.

• • •

One more piece of local Geisinger info, just in case you missed it: “Home health provider to join Geisinger.”

• • •

In this congressional testimony by Lancaster General Health President and CEO Tom Beeman, you’ll learn about what the health system is doing with telemedicine and where it’s headed and that a third of its 300,000 patients are enrolled in its patient portal.

• • •

Ever wondered what would happen if that tax benefit for getting health insurance through your job were eliminated, particularly as it relates to overall Social Security payouts? This two-page paper’s for you.

• • •

Highmark has added claims and spending tabs to its member homepage and says members can now enter and pay claims directly from their computers, tablets or smartphones.

I’ll be honest: This doesn’t sound that impressive to me, but that’s probably because I’ve been blessed to never have medical bills that got anywhere near exceeding my deductible, so my experience with insurance claims processes and websites has been extremely limited. In an age where Mint.com exists and pretty much all other bills can be paid online, the announcement pretty much served as a reminder to me how much catching up health care has to do on this front.

• • •

And I quote: “Only two percent of decision makers have chosen a private exchange for their employees, with another two percent opting for a public health care exchange.” Keep going, because the next sentence is a doozy: “A quarter (22 percent) of those surveyed have considered a private exchange but have chosen to not partake in one.”

That’s a lot of ditherers.

• • •

PinnacleHealth Women’s Cancer Center opened a new office in Franklin County. Dr. Jose Misas is now seeing patients at 380 Floral Ave., Chambersburg, Mondays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“This new location offers existing and new patients the ease of follow-up and post-op appointments and colposcopy procedures, closer to home,” Misas said in a news release. “In addition, it provides us with a closer working relationship with OB/GYNs in the area.”

• • •

This headline’s pretty explanatory: “With no health registry, PA doesn’t know the impact of fracking on health.”

• • •

Finally, I can’t help but wonder how different the Obamacare Marketplace numbers would have been if this study had been widely disseminated during open enrollment: “Insured or uninsured, young adults seem to spend about the same out-of-pocket for health care over the course of a year.”

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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