News

Peninsula health care options expand

by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

The board of commissioners of Olympic Medical Center voted unanimously Wednesday, April 27, to join forces with Swedish Medical Center, the vast Seattle-based medical care conglomerate. By signing up Swedish as a “tertiary affiliate,” OMC will be able to provide a more extensive menu of health care options to peninsula residents.

 

Following almost a year of planning and research, the commissioners unanimously approved a “memorandum of understanding” spelling out the terms of the agreement.

 

Jefferson Healthcare in Port Townsend and Forks Community Hospital are expected to approve a similar agreement with Swedish soon.

 

Marcel Loh, senior vice president and chief administrative officer of Swedish/Cherry Hill, said his organization also is excited about the new agreement. “Swedish Health Services is honored to be the affiliate of choice for Olympic Medical Center, Jefferson Healthcare and Forks Community
Hospital. We look forward to completing the affiliation agreement and being an extension of the great care that all three organizations provide to people who live and work in the North Olympic Peninsula area.”

Details, details

Eric Lewis, Olympic Medical Center CEO said Swedish will provide peninsula patients with a number of useful services, including those “third-level services” OMC can’t provide, such as open-heart surgery, neurosurgery, care for severe burns and neonatal intensive care.

 

He said utilizing the services of Swedish would be up to patients but if they chose that option, they would receive excellent, cost-effective service.

 

Lewis said having a larger affiliate also will help OMC meet other challenges, including new electronic medical record-keeping (EMR) requirements. Swedish utilizes Epic, a highly-praised record-keeping system.

 

Lewis said the system, now the dominant EMR system in the Northwest, was unavailable to OMC. “We can’t buy Epic,” he said. “We’re not big enough.”

 

Lewis said to date Swedish has spent $150 million on the service. “They’ll license it to us at a price we can afford,” he said.

 

Joining the Epic system involves a great deal more than just logging on. The new memorandum of understanding includes extensive details on how the planning and implementation of Epic will take place, with initial negotiations to begin in the third quarter of 2011.

 

Under the new agreement, Swedish will accept all patients. Lewis said that includes private pay, Medicare and uninsured patients.

 

Lewis also praised the medical staff at Swedish, saying the hospital’s reputation allows it to “cherry pick” the nation’s very best doctors.

 

OMC and Swedish still have work to do. The nonbinding agreement calls for the two “to negotiate in good faith” toward a “definitive” formal agreement.

The benefits package

The agreement also specifies a number of additional benefits to OMC and peninsula patients:

• Swedish, which currently provides telemedicine services to stroke victims at Olympic Memorial Hospital, will expand its telemedicine offerings for OMC patients.

 

• OMC has the option to contract with Swedish for physician recruitment support services, which may include pre-recruitment practice assessments.    

 

• Swedish will support agreed-upon visits by subspecialists to OMC’s facilities. Subspecialists “may include endocrinologists, rheumatologists, etc.”

 

• OMC and Swedish “will make the expansion of cardiology services on the North Olympic Peninsula an initial priority for the affiliation.”

 

• OMC and Swedish will explore options for developing or expanding family practice residency programs to include the North Olympic Peninsula.

 

• OMC patients will have access to the Swedish Heart and Vascular Institute, Neuroscience Institute, Cancer Institute and Orthopedic Institute and the associated physician specialists. The specialists will work with OMC’s medical staff to develop “protocols that accompany transfers back to community physicians to promote seamless care transition and better outcomes for patients.”

 

• Swedish “will endeavor to extend to (OMC) the group purchasing programs in which it participates.”
Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.

 

 

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