Changes in healthcare landscape prompt changes at Baptist Easley

By D. C. Moody dmoody@civitasmedia.com

April 22, 2014

EASLEY — The changes in the landscape of healthcare in the first quarter of 2014 has precipitated needed changes within Baptist Easley and the healthcare community as a whole where costs are concerned.

“Take the Affordable Care Act. It was either the president or vice president who said we’ve shifted from a country, based on the law, that sees healthcare not as a privilege, but a right,” Baptist Easley CEO Mike Batchelor said. “I’m not sure the entire country sees it that way yet, but as we progress that’s where we’re headed, which is unsustainable and that’s why we’ve had to begin making changes.”

Batchelor, fresh off an unscheduled visit to a Colorado emergency room following his wife’s illness, cited his own experience as what the future holds in healthcare, receiving a bill in excess of $11,000. The reason for the cost was associated from the non-emergent status of the illness.

“We were out of town and didn’t have access to primary care,” Batchelor said. “But it does go to the fact the emergency department isn’t always the answer or where the patient needs to be.”

Collection of deductibles, elimination of bad debt, and funneling patients into the appropriate niche are all changes in progress at Baptist Easley.

Batchelor discussed the treatment of chronic pain through the emergency department as an example of how the system might be improved.

Members of the emergency department staff would screen the patient but not manage pain, instead helping the patient reach pain management, the niche in which they should be treated thus reducing unnecessary costs within the incorrect department.

But Batchelor believes that particular issue could be stemming from another area of concern.

“I believe we have a real struggle with behavioral health and I would say the majority of the people who come in with pain related matters probably have some level of behavioral related health issues,” Batchelor said. “Yet, they self-medicate here. It’s the social issues, the basic fundamentals of life creating some of the problems we’re facing and we want to help be a part of the solution.”

Many will find the changes in collections within the hospital a change from past protocols as well.

As Baptist Easley shifts to becoming an organization of high reliability, shared governance and meeting the community halfway, Batchelor explained that hospital staff will have to determine if the patient needs the procedure and if it’s emergent.

“And if it’s not emergent but you’re going to have to come up with $500 before we can even begin, we’re going to see a short-term loss of some of the current base in the community,” he said.

How does Batchelor see these changes playing out for Baptist Easley?

“They (patients) may go somewhere else. That’s why we still have to remain the best experienced, give high quality, evidence-based care,” he said. “We have to remain the best and they will come back. Those other hospitals and offices are a business as well and their experience may not be what they expected.”

In 2013 Baptist Easley had a balance sheet with over $3 million in bad debt to be written off. Batchelor hopes to reverse the trend and reward the employees and staff.

“The employees are excited. They see the change but change is difficult. They still have two or three things on their mind,” Batchelor said. “They haven’t had a raise in two or three years. They’re embracing what we’re doing and I think once we’re able to deliver a merit increase this yea, morale will continue to go up, but the proof’s in the pudding.”