Page 31 - BusinessWest July 20, 2020
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Continued from page 28
Now that the infection rate is being effectively controlled, he explained, hospitals are trying
to communicate the message that they are safe places to visit — with plenty of strict protocols in place, from masking to social distancing to con- stant sanitizing — for patients who need to be seen.
DiStefano said the challenge has been ramping services back up — and bringing back furloughed workers — to match what is proving to be pent- up demand, but in a measured way. “It’s a delicate balance — how do we do this to best serve the community?”
It’s a long road back from the volume lows of the spring, when physician revenue dropped by 50. They’re now back around 65%, and inpatient beds are at about 80% of capacity. But people with serious health concerns should not put off care, he stressed, especially since the hospital has been diligent about infection protocols and keep- ing COVID-suspected patients separated from the rest.
“We take great pains to keep this environment safe,” he said. “The message to the community is, ‘if you are hurt, if you have a condition, this is a safe place to come.’” It helps, he added, to be affiliated with a larger system, Trinity Health, and while Mercy has rarely seen the kind of finan- cial deficit it faced this spring, its leaders are still doing what they can to meet community health needs.
“We are the fabric of the community; there are no concerns about Mercy’s future,” DiStefano told BusinessWest. “We are going to be here for many years to come. Fortunately, we have the backing
of a larger organization, and that helps a lot.”
Distance Learning
If there is an upside to navigating the pandem- ic, he said it might be the growing importance of telehealth, which became not just a convenient tool for providers and patients over the past few months, but a critical one — and one that seems to be on track to be covered by insurance pay-
ers in the future much more consistently than before.
“This has become more of a platform that allows us to reach out to patients,” said DiSte- fano, whose background in telemedicine goes back to the 1990s. “I hope it’s a bigger part of healthcare going forward. Obviously, you have
to do some testing in the office, but you can do preliminary or follow-up appointments with tele- health, and that reduces the volume of patients in the waiting room and the physical office, which allows us to have a much cleaner, COVID- free environment to keep those people safe.”
In short, it’s a way to boost volume — and rev- enues — while making patients who do go to the hospital feel more secure.
Hatiras agreed. “We had to switch on the fly
to do more telehealth, but what we saw was care being delivered even more efficiently,” he said. “We saw no-show rates completely drop. So it’s an effective way to provide care, and there will cer- tainly be more pressure on insurers to reimburse appropriately for telehealth.”
Indeed, Marqusee added, “what has been stopping us from doing more telehealth has been reimbursement; I hope we never go back to the days when we were so underpaid for telehealth. It has been a terrific model.”
In the meantime, she sees volume slowly returning to Cooley Dickinson — perhaps reach- ing 90% of a typical season come October. “But the reason we welcome those numbers is because people need to get care — it’s not because we need the volume. We know from national stud- ies and anecdotally that people have been afraid, and they’re forgoing care, and that can really have
area to furlough folks; we didn’t hold off because we saw it was absolutely important to be financially viable because we don’t have a parent company to spot us money.
health impacts for people.”
That’s why her facility, like the others Business-
West spoke with, is not only maintaining strict protocols around infection control, but is com- municating what it’s doing with the community.
“People have to believe that and feel confident. It’s really important that people don’t stay home in pain with issues that will just get worse. People aren’t coming with heart attacks, or appendicitis, or they power through a head injury, and it turns out they had a brain bleed. People need to come for care, and they should know this is a place they can come and feel comfortable.”
We were probably the first hospital in the
  Not so comfort- able, however, that they neglect the
Continued on page 33
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