DEMOREST — Habersham Medical Center officials say 2018 was a good year for the Demorest hospital.
“Our efforts this year have been focused on continuous improvement towards our mission through our values of Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect and Excellence,” according to the Report to the Community by CEO Lynn Boggs and Hospital Authority of Habersham Chairman Stacy Hall.
“As we reflect on this year at Habersham Medical Center, we very much appreciate the opportunity to support our patients, residents and families through our mission – ‘We are committed to a healthy community through our exceptional care and service’,” the report reads.
The Report to the Community highlights operational changes at the hospital from December 2017 to December 2018.
A new mammography suite was opened in October, featuring 3D mammography. The state-of-the-art technology provides for improved imaging, thereby reducing further revisits and additional invasive/non-invasive testing, which reduces cost and inconvenience, all while increasing quality to patients. HMC mammography volume increased by 40 percent from 2017 to 2018, primarily because of 3D mammography availability, according to officials.
“The new 3D mammography suite at Habersham Medical Center is state-of-the-art technology,” Hall says. “Not only did we invest in the new technology that we’ve put in there, but we’ve knocked out walls and built a really nice – we call it a spa-like suite – that’s a lot more welcoming for women to come in there. We’re hoping that will encourage more women in our community to get in there and get checked. It’s top-of-the-line technology, so we’re glad to have it here in Habersham, and it prevents folks from driving all the way somewhere else to have a checkup.”
Additionally, Habersham Medical Group started an internal medicine/geriatrics practice in April with Dr. Laura Heringer. The practice demonstrated growth as projected, and officials have begun looking for a practice partner. Heringer saw 1,245 patient visits through Dec. 17.
“Primary care access remains an issue for Habersham County citizens and we will continue to evaluate needs as we grow our practices,” the report states.
Other changes include:
- Establishment of a centralized call center, The Access Center, in March 2018 for the purpose of easier access to the medical group and outpatient procedure scheduling, referrals, and insurance pre-authorization for care. The volume of calls between March and November is 20,000.
- HMC’s outpatient infusion program was restructured in 2018, with the volume increasing by 55 percent between 2017 and 2018.
- Orthopedics of Northeast Georgia/Habersham Medical Group reopened in 2018. As of Nov. 20, the practice contributed net revenue of $1,764,500 to HMC.
- A new swing-bed program was started in the fall. Swing beds allow discharged patients to remain in the hospital for a limited number of days for specific rehabilitation therapies, instead of being discharged to another rehabilitation facility.
- A new lab substation location, Lab Express, opened in December. Lab Express allows for easy parking, access and quick registration through the Family Birth entrance. The new process/location has decreased outpatient lab waiting time by more than 50 percent, from 22 minutes to 10 minutes. HMC lab also has reinstated the Labcorp draw station contract to service those patients whose insurance requires Labcorp use.
- HMC became eligible for a drug cost savings program called 340b in 2018 and is closing calendar year 2018 with a reduction on drug costs of $386,000. This savings amount is projected to increase in fiscal year 2020 (starting July 2019) with the addition of a retail pharmacy license in April 2019.
- Habersham Medical Center’s urgent care center, Primecare, closed in October due to insufficient visits. HMC restructured its Emergency Department workflow to provide for patient transition support via a Rapid Treatment Area for lower acuity patients. That change has demonstrated a visit time of 45 minutes or less for lower acuity patients, while also reducing the total visit time for all other E.D. patients by 20 percent, or almost 30 minutes.
- Voluntary turnover rates for HMC decreased by 13 percent from 2017 to 2018.
- HMC recently joined HP2, a clinical integration program led by Northeast Georgia Health System. Through the program, HMC will be participating in various initiatives that coordinate care needs, measure quality outcomes, and improve costs for HMC’s patients throughout the region.
- Through these and other efforts, overall expenses for operating Habersham Medical Center have decreased 7.8 percent, or more than $3 million from fiscal year 2017 through fiscal year 2019 to date.
Looking to the future
In 2019, Habersham Medical Center officials look forward to some new initiatives and facility changes, including:
- An I-CARE pharmacy will open in April, along with a new café featuring Starbucks products in a co-located space where the old Primecare clinic was located inside the hospital.
- A new surgeon will be joining Dr. Hill at Habersham Surgical Services/Habersham Medical Group in July 2019. In the interim, HMC officials have initiated 100-percent call coverage with other surgeons to ensure local availability of surgical care.
Habersham Medical Center is a 53-bed, not-for-profit, acute care facility. One of the largest employers in the area, the hospital employs more than 600 people, has an annual operating budget of $42 million and has a local economic impact of more than $75 million.