theadanews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

November 6, 2013

Roundtable offers glimpse of health care future

Art Lawler Staff Writer adanewslawler@cableone.net
www.theadanews.com

Ada — Mike McCurry, chief operating officer for Mercy Health Ministry in St. Louis, and Di Smalley, regional president for Mercy West Communities, gave local leaders insight into the future of health care during the Mercy Community Roundtable discussion Monday at East Central University’s Chickasaw Business and Conference Center.

McCurry led off with a mostly dismal picture of the financial future of medicine. He discussed in some detail how Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, will result in hospitals having to treat more Medicaid patients because of the new federal requirement that everyone must purchase health insurance.

Simultaneously, he said, the government will not sufficiently increase funding for hospitals to take care of the large number of poor patients who come through the doors.

He predicted that many small hospitals in rural areas would be laying off personnel or even close their doors because of unworkable bottom lines.

He then raised hopes by detailing how Mercy is adjusting with innovative, high-tech strategies.

The title of McCurry’s speech was Headwinds of Change. With or without Obamacare, he said, healthcare in the  United States had to be re-thought to meet the needs of today’s patients at an affordable price.

He told the crowd how the Mercy Community has been out in front by investing in such innovations as a vast system of electronic health records that promises to put big-city physicians right into the operating rooms of communities like Ada where physicians can collaborate on what is best for the patient.

The possibilities are endless, hospital administrators say. Most patients would rather stay close to home. With some of the nation’s top physicians conferring with physicians in rural areas, life-saving consultations are now possible, rather than patients having to drive to places like Tulsa or Oklahoma City.

Patients still expect the same quality of experience, skill and knowledge as physicians in metro areas have.

Through the analysis of millions of electronic medical records, expanded knowledge is expected to identify best practices and reveal early indicators of life-threatening conditions.

Di Smalley, regional president for Mercy West Communities, spoke about how new automations have already revolutionized treatment of sepsis, a complicated and potentially deadly response infection that kills one out of every four patients who develop it.

Mercy physicians, according to the literature officials provided, created an early warning system to identify those at risk. The system automatically combs through the electronic health record of every patient entering the hospital, alerting caregivers and prompting preventive actions.

In less than a year, deaths from severe sepsis in Mercy Hospital St. Louis decreased nearly 50 percent. Death from septic shock decreased 60 percent, Smalley said.

Not only that, but the average stay in ICU is down by more than four days.

Sepsis, she told the gathering, is just one example of how data can be mined from electronic health records and combined with physician insight to save lives.

Mercy administrators also talked about partnering with children’s education programs on preventive medicine.

Luke Hobbs, community engagement manager for Health-Teacher, and Barb Yahnian, director of sales for the company, had the entire crowd on their feet to go through a five-minute program they called Brain Breaks.

Monday night’s game was called Go Noodle and designed for getting small students moving by playing physical games beside their desks.