New CEO of Owensboro Health says hospitals are working to improve care, regardless of federal health reform

Philip Patterson, the new CEO of the Owensboro Health, says hospitals are moving towards health reform regardless of what happens with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Patterson is coming to Owensboro from Bon Secours Charity Health System in New York and New Jersey, a three-hospital system with net patient revenue of nearly $500 million.  Patterson says he wants to build a stronger network for regional care in the Owensboro area.

The Affordable Care Act has changed physician and hospital payment structures, encouraging wellness participation, Patterson said in an interview with Ryan Alessi of cn|2’s “Pure Politics.” Patterson said the law creates incentives for hospitals to keep patients from being readmitted, and to only provide necessary care.

Regardless of what happens with the law, health organizations and providers need to be more than providers, Patterson said: They need to be health partners to their communities, to improve community members’ overall health by managing care through screenings and education.

The health care law penalizes health systems for providing care that is not needed, and it encourages a change in thinking for providers who need to start providing care more economically, said Patterson. One way to do that is by building a strong network of providers who coordinate care.

“To create a sustainable system, you’ve got to cover a unique and significant population,” he told Alessi. To cover a larger geographic area in New York and New Jersey, Patterson said, he created a loosely affiliated network of independent facilities that all worked toward the common goals of improving care coordination and quality.

As a result of Medicaid expansion in Kentucky, which now covers households earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level, an additional 400,000 people may have health insurance coverage that have never had it before.

“There’s always a cost when you build something new and try to integrate a population into it,” said Patterson. Unfortunately, those who lack insurance tend to have lower education levels and potentially neglected health care needs as a result of not having coverage or the perception of not having access to health care, Patterson told Alessi.

“The process of making this [integration] work is going to be clearly on the structure of health care providers as they try to manage that population to keep them out of the hospital where the most expense is,” he said. Provider networks can coordinate to manage disease processes before they require care, and education and communication about how to access care is crucial, Patterson told Alessi.

Asked what will happen to hospitals if the health law is delayed or repealed, Patterson said, “It really hasn’t been rolled out yet. We are still in a wait and see mode in a lot of these pieces.” He said if health care systems buy into the law’s overall goals, and they are already working towards the goal of better health care management. “The issue is the infrastructure and how to pay for it,” he said.

“Repeal? I don’t know what’s going to happen there. I think as long as the goals are to create a better health model for a community, you’re going to work towards them anyway,” said Patterson.

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