By Margaret High
Behind the unmistakable sandstone brick and dark-tinted windows of Columbus Regional Healthcare System sits interim CEO, John Young.
Young has been with CRHS for roughly two months now, helping continue operations and find areas of efficiencies for the hospital.
As the second largest private employer in the county, Young said there’s a lot of responsibility for the hospital to bring in revenue to keep up services and maintain employment opportunities.
“The biggest thing we’re working on right now is we are transforming this organization from a very finance-driven accounting system to a clinically driven accounting system,” Young said.
A clinically driven system will allow healthcare providers to have access to a patient’s medical history. All the tests, x-rays or MRIs will be available for the provider to see whenever they need it, allowing for a seamless transition from department to department within the hospital.
The new system should be in place by May 2019. The adjustment is expensive but necessary, Young said.
“Healthcare isn’t cheap,” Young said. “But that’s not because hospitals are making a lot of money, but because healthcare is expensive.”
In a hospital system, there generally are only three or four areas that are profitable. That income is then used to support other hospital services that don’t generate a profit. To keep revenue coming in, Young said the hospital is going to focus on improving and expanding surgery.
“Right now, if we charge $1, we get about 30 cents to spend,” Young said. “We use that to pay for everything else.”
Young added that for the size of Columbus County, there is a “refreshing” amount of talent in CRHS. He highlighted general surgery and urology as some of the strongest departments of the hospital.
The hospital is struggling to find caregivers and nurses; one of the biggest areas it has job openings in. It’s also looking to improve orthopedic surgery.
Young highlighted the Donayre Cancer Care Center.
“For the kinds of (chemotherapy) infusions that we do in this community, it’s the same that you would get in Charlotte,” Young said. “What’s happening here is happening everywhere else. It’s state of the art.”
Donayre Cancer Care Center is part of the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, creating a network of healthcare providers that allows a free flow of information and medical practices.
“The whole intent of the Levine Cancer Institute was to push stuff back into the communities that the patients come from,” Young said. “Because it’s typically multiple trips for (chemotherapy) infusion, we can do it here instead of Charlotte.”
In response to the growing opioid crisis in Columbus County and nation-wide, Young said one focus is minimizing open surgery procedures and turning toward robotic, microscopic surgeries when possible, which reduces the number of narcotics needed for pain control.
“Our physicians are very much involved in how they can,” Young said. “They’re much more careful now – not that they weren’t before, but the new rules are really aimed at wanting to minimize any chance of someone becoming addicted to opioids.”
Growth in primary care medicine, cardiology, surgery and cancer/oncology is in the future for the hospital.
A way that CRHS hopes to grow is through a focus on population health, a notion that moves healthcare from volume to value. Young said the hospital is looking at other areas of healthcare that bundle payments. For example, a surgeon would be paid for the entirety of his or her surgeries instead of each one. The theory is that it promotes efficiencies by forcing surgeons to shift from trying to fit in a lot of surgeries to doing really well on a smaller number.
As Young and the rest of the administrative staff at CRHS look at possible efficiencies in the system, they also are celebrating improvements. CRHS recently earned an A rating from Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, a massive improvement from previous years marked with C’s.
“I don’t think the community understands what it has here,” Young said. “In all things, we’ve come from being pretty good to really good.”