Hospital seeks to acquire Mercy clinic
Dennis Hunger, CEO of Washington County Hospital and Clinics (WCHC), announced that WCHC is in the process of acquiring Mercy Family Medicine of Washington. He made the announcement Tuesday afternoon during the WCHC Board of Trustees monthly meeting.
“This process has been evolving for several months and is now moving very quickly,” he said. “During the past month we executed the physician contracts and are now negotiating with Mercy-Iowa City to continue this transition. Mercy has been very professional and good to work with throughout this process and we appreciate them for their efforts.”
Hunger said that the hospital and clinics are working with the consulting firm of CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA) on the project.
“Specifically, we are focused on the following three areas: onboarding the clinic into our WCHC family; analyzing and maximizing our clinic efficiencies, including EMR (electronic medical record) effectiveness, both the Mercy clinic and our existing clinic; and developing short-term and long-term clinic plans to improve health and promote wellness of all our communities.”
Hunger said that an estimated 1,000 county residents may be entering the health care system through the Affordable Care Act. These residents will have access to health care starting Jan. 1, 2014. They don’t have that access today. The new patients will be looking for local doctors for health care, and the local doctors already have about as many patients as they can handle.
“I wouldn’t say they’re not taking new patients, but they are nearing capacity,” he said. “So your options are expand [the number of] physicians or improve efficiencies.”
The choice available to WCHC is to improve doctor efficiency. CLA experts are going to help WCHC implement improvements to do that.
WCHC chief of staff Dr. Paul Towner talked about the EMR software used in the hospital’s medical clinic as inefficient. He said that the physicians “were doing a good job in spite of the current EMR system.”
“I want to make sure that you highly respect the opinions of the end users — the physicians. Often when EMRs are sold to physicians, they don’t have their input in mind,” Towner continued. “We get stuck with something like the current CPSI.”
Hunger said that there were different points of view on the EMR software. He said the EMR systems used by both clinics will be evaluated.
“As we go through this process, there are more questions today than answers,” Hunger said.
He also said that the clinics have doctors doing nursing responsibilities, the nurses doing clerical responsibilities, and clerical workers who are doing tasks that are being questioned.
In conclusion, Hunger said, “You have the right people that understand the challenges we’re faced with and they are trying to do the right things for our communities. They want to be successful here. We’re very excited about it.”
Tony Warner of CLA was present at the meeting. He said that a detailed implementation plan will be done in a few weeks.
Warner said bringing in the Mercy Family Medicine clinic is slated to be done in the first quarter of 2014. He said Hunger is pushing to have it done by Jan. 1.
“We want to make sure that we can do that with all the things that need to get done,” he said.
Board Chairman Keith Lazar said, “This announcement today will set this community up for some good health care long term, give us the stability you want and it’s great that the hospital is making the investment in this. It’s a great announcement for the county of Washington.”