February 05, 2014LITTLETON — The leaders of Littleton Regional Healthcare confront a range of questions as they peer into the future. Based on their remarks at the 107th Community Meeting last week, LRH accepts oncoming challenges with confidence.
CEO Warren West took a moment during the meeting to honor a long-time servant of LRH. George Brodeur recently retired from the board, West said. Brodeur's board service began in 1997. His assistance was instrumental in completing the new medical office building, West said. He continued by proudly declaring the building "The House that George Built."
West began his address by answering a question he frequently receives: "Who owns this place?" His answer, West said, is, "You own this place." He noted that LRH remains a "non-profit, mission driven" entity. Excess revenue is reinvested in LRH "for the betterment of the community," West added.
As he turned to the future, West said, "We can only read so many of the tea leaves." However, some trends are already emerging. He said these include the need to lower costs, the increase in high deductible insurance plans, and a rise in consolidation across providers. West illustrated the last point by mentioning recent examples of health care entities that have joined Dartmouth-Hitchcock.
Health systems will need to transform to meet the changes already underway, West continued. He said a hospital traditionally provides care for the sick. Now, the imperative of wellness and the prevention of illness has become more pronounced. Also, LRH must continue to embrace the rise in mobile and electronic health services, rather than just static office and hospital settings, West added.
Potential payment changes are another big challenge, West suggested. About 40 percent of LRH revenue comes from the federal government, he said. This is mainly through traditional fee-for-service care. West described the prevailing system as "do more, make more." Future payment arrangements will likely be in some form of population-based reimbursement focused on quality. West called this likely payment change, "perform better, make more."
Viewing the region as an overall health system, West said LRH must manage the health of communities. This requires, he said, the ability to "manage beyond the four walls of the hospital."
"We need to redefine how we do our work," West said. This means, "we must reinvent the health care system in the North Country," he added. "We have to learn how to get people healthier," West suggested.
Stevan Trooboff, chairman of the LRH Board of Trustees, believes LRH has the right position to meet the challenges West discussed. Change, however, "is going to have a huge impact on how we operate," he said.
Three important points make Trooboff happy as he ponders LRH's future. First, he praised the great staff across departments. Second, LRH has a solid financial footing, including good control of its debt. Finally, modern facilities are a great asset for Littleton and surrounding communities.
The wisdom of Will Rogers summed up the message that West and Trooboff presented. In a slide at the end of meeting, a picture of Rogers appeared, along with the words, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."