"The Ronan Report" provides insight about the activities at the Western Maryland Health System in Cumberland, Maryland, and about the changes taking place in healthcare today from a CEO's perspective.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tour of a Lifetime

Yesterday afternoon, I participated in our Foundation's Tour of a Lifetime event.  We had a special tour for our Foundation Board members after their regular meeting.  This series of Tours is at our Cancer Center.  Julie Hardy, Director of Medical Oncology, and Deana Ouellette, Chief Technologist for Radiation Oncology, conducted the tours in both of their areas.  

The tours were amazingly enlightening for all attendees, including me.  I continue to marvel at what the staff in both of these areas do for our patients, day after day.  There are jobs and then there are callings; this is truly a calling for those who work in our Cancer Center.  The staff is kind, compassionate, pleasant, knowledgable and highly experienced.  
We had the opportunity to see our newest addition to our Cancer Center, our Varian True Beam linear accelerator.  The True Beam, with a price tag of just under $3M, uses pinpoint accuracy to radiate tumors anywhere in the body.  

I had the opportunity to explain to the group during the tour that shortly after moving to a Total Patient Revenue payment methodology in FY 2011, we heard from some staff, physicians and even folks in the community that operating under such a payment methodology would be the end of any new technology and that our intention would be to save money by not effectively treating patients any longer.  In fact, I saw a headline the other day in the NY Post that said just that--the new "dangerous" direction for health care.  Wrong!!  In addition to the article/thought being insulting, nothing could be further from the truth.  The True Beam linear accelerator was a great opportunity to demonstrate for the organization and the community that by reducing unnecessary admissions, ED visits, and ancillary utilization, we could re-invest that savings in new programs and new technology to better treat those in need.  

Now with that said, the efficacy of any treatment needs to be demonstrated to be effective; otherwise, no one will support the treatment financially.  There was a time when if the technology or a drug was available, for the most part, it was provided; few questions were asked.  That is no longer the case.  The payers have said that there needs to be demonstrated viability in the treatment in order for them to pay for it, even though it may be listed as a covered service.  If it doesn't substantially prolong life or have a demonstrated life-saving benefit, you can almost be certain that the treatment will be denied.  With close to $3 trillion in health care spending in the US each year, an "anything goes" model for care delivery couldn't be sustained.  

Anyway, back to our Cancer Center and the Tour of a Lifetime, it was time very well spent and gave me the idea that we need to do more with opening up the health system to the public so they can see what we have accomplished since bringing this still state-of-the-art facility to little old Cumberland.

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