ARH ready for challenges in anniversary year

Published 2:49 am Friday, January 1, 2016

ARH made major investments in equipment upgrades in 2015.

ARH made major investments in equipment upgrades in 2015.

The new year will hold continued challenges for health care providers, but Andalusia Regional Hospital employees are up to the tasks ahead, CEO John Yanes said.

“The continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or healthcare reform, made it increasingly challenging for hospitals in 2015,” Yanes said. “This trend will continue in 2016 with hospitals expected to provide the same or higher service levels while experiencing decreasing reimbursement and increasing bad debt. While a greater number of patients may be enrolled in employer sponsored health plans or through healthcare exchanges, a growing number of health plans have significantly higher deductibles and co-payments. More patients understandably are finding it very difficult to make ends meet and unable to pay their out-of-pocket expenses. This means that hospitals will continue to have higher uncompensated care and bad debt.

“Hospitals across the nation are facing many financial challenges, including underpayments for both Medicare and Medicaid and more than $144 billion of new cuts since 2010,” he said. “This means that it costs hospitals more than what we are paid by Medicare and Medicaid to care for patients. The significant financial challenges have resulted in 57 rural hospitals closing since 2010 with nine rural hospital closures in 2015.”

While ARH has also felt some negative effects, the hospital has been able to manage is operations and has made the most of its membership within a larger hospital system (i.e. LifePoint Health), Yanes said. ARH also hopes to build on 2015’s successes.

“We were able to achieve significant successes in 2015, including the recruitment of five physicians as well as being recognized as a Top Performer on Key Quality Metrics by The Joint Commission (the leading national hospital accrediting agency),” he said.

Andalusia Regional Hospital is one of only 1,043 hospitals out of more than 3,300 eligible hospitals in the United States to achieve the Top Performer distinction. Another key 2015 accomplishment, he said, is ARH’s Emergency Department achieving a score of 96 (out of 100) in the Pediatric Readiness Assessment sponsored by the National Pediatric Readiness Project (NPRP). The NPRP is a quality improvement initiative to ensure that all U.S. emergency departments (ED) have the essential guidelines and resources in place to provide effective emergency care to children.

“Our hospital’s efforts to improve quality and service will position ARH well as we journey into 2016 and face the increasing challenges that lay ahead,” Yanes said. “While we have been able to make improvements, we are not blind to the fact that we still have several opportunities to improve our operations and service levels. Similar to 2015, we will continue to be a solid community partner and work with our medical staff to develop services to better serve our community right here in Covington County.

“While we expect increasing challenges, ARH will continue to work on earning the trust of our community by improving service levels and improving convenience and access,” Yanes said. “We have to work on eliminating what I call the ‘hazel factor.’ Patients have to come first. This is very important as we prepare to celebrate ARH’s 50th Anniversary in 2016.

“Our hospital team is prepared to face a very demanding but rewarding year,” he said. “We have several new services and celebrations planned in 2016 to fulfill our mission of Making Our Community Healthier and position our hospital to provide care for at least another 50 years. “