An ever-evolving health care system has been forcing institutions across the nation to change their approach to patient care — and Pennsylvania hospitals are feeling the push.
In summer 2013, Good Samaritan Health System put out the call for help, said CEO Bob Longo.
“From our end, we were looking for a partner that would maintain our local system of care, pretty much keeping us a community hospital while helping us adjust to changes with the Affordable Care Act and health care reform,” Longo said. “In order for us to properly manage population health, we needed to be part of a system that had the professional resources and the financial capital to make it happen.”
By that autumn, WellSpan Health, based in York County, seemed like the best fit to help Good Samaritan transition, Longo said.
WellSpan and Good Samaritan signed a definitive agreement that is awaiting approval by the office of the state Attorney General. Once the organizations get permission to join forces, a slew of well-calculated changes will take place to expand health care in Lebanon County.
A growing history
WellSpan’s growing system of care is unique, because it doesn’t operate under a traditional “hub-and-spoke model, where hospitals are the hub and our ambulatory sites are the spokes,” said Brett Marcy, WellSpan regional director of public relations and communications.
Instead, WellSpan works to develop a local system of care, allowing patients to see the best specialists without leaving their home county.
WellSpan’s earliest expansion was in 1999, when York Health System and Gettysburg Hospital in Adams County joined forces under the WellSpan umbrella.
Since that partnership started, WellSpan’s Gettysburg Hospital has grown to include cardiac catheterization services, a new emergency department and local access to specialty care, including neurology, neurosurgery, behavioral heath, cardiology, orthopedics and rheumatology.
Four ambulatory facilities also have been added in Adams County to allow local access to primary care, outpatient surgery, rehabilitation, lab testing, imaging and retail pharmacies.
WellSpan’s expansion didn’t stop in Adams County. In 2013, WellSpan brought a new variety of services to Lancaster County by affiliating with Ephrata Community Hospital.
There, WellSpan was able to offer maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and pelvic reconstructive surgery, and gynecologic oncology, as well as introduce genetic counseling at the Ephrata Cancer Center.
Across these three systems of care in Adams, York and Lancaster counties, WellSpan has more than 730 health care providers and 130 patient-care locations, Marcy said.
“It’s the same approach we’ll take in Lebanon County, when Good Samaritan Health System joins our system,” he said.
Develop what’s there
Because a system of care already is in place in Lebanon County, WellSpan sees its job as bringing deeper tool sets and additional resources to help develop what already exists, said Kevin Mosser, WellSpan CEO.
Some of the transition priorities will focus on the addition of services that Good Samaritan hasn’t been able to provide, he said. That includes cancer care through the cancer center Good Samaritan is building, as well as orthopedic care and local practices that can support the emergency room and hospital.
Longo added that Good Samaritan is in need of a robust IT system to help enhance medical records and connect all points of care, from primary care physicians to specialists and emergency room staff. WellSpan’s IT system allows care providers within the network to see a patient’s treatment across the board.
What these changes mean for current hospital staff will vary, Mosser said. Over time, corporate billing and management will become consolidated, but not in the sense that jobs would be lost, he said. Instead, people would move from working under the hospital to working under WellSpan.
“We’re there as a health care system to try to keep jobs in the community,” Mosser said. “Jobs will change a little bit, but the idea is to grow.”
Keep patients informed
Good Samaritan has been pushing its new image with messages in grocery stores and at movie theaters, Longo said.
“As soon as we get the go-ahead to move forward, the first 60 days will be a blitz of communication,” he said. “The more transparent we are with the community, the easier the transition will be for everyone.”
Hoping to get clearance from the state Attorney General’s office by July 1, WellSpan will start rolling out plans by late summer, Mosser said.
“These transitions are complex, and with a goal to stay true to the community, we need to hear from the people we serve,” Mosser said. “It’s not easy to put services into a market. If people can be patient with us and give us the feedback we need, I think they’ll find it pays off in the long run.”