Making healthcare work better for patients, communities through partnerships

One of the most rewarding moments for me as a CEO is when I hear stories about how our work makes a difference in the lives of our patients. For Twyla, a 93-year-old Jersey Shore woman with diabetes, the way we’re making a difference offers a glimpse into how healthcare is changing for the better.

Twyla receives a monthly visit from a nurse who makes sure she’s feeling well and staying on track with the medications and treatment plan her doctor ordered. That nurse is part of our team at River Health ACO, a new kind of healthcare group called an “accountable care organization.” ACOs focus on coordinating patient care to improve health, prevent needless trips to the hospital, and reduce costs for everyone.

To make those regular visits happen, health providers in our region had to come together in a partnership. River Health ACO was co-founded by Susquehanna Health along with PinnacleHealth System and a number of community health centers and physician practices. Twyla’s story demonstrates the important role that partnerships play in the changes sweeping across America’s healthcare system.

As I have conversations with fellow hospital and health system CEOs across the country, it’s clear that all of us are looking at new ways to partner, collaborate and innovate with physicians and other providers.

By banding together, we can open up new resources and efficiencies, improve access to care and share specialized expertise that will help us meet the challenges of the changing healthcare environment.

Those challenges are many. Our aging population has increasing medical needs. Medicare reimbursements are shrinking and fall below the cost of providing care. Government and private insurers are shifting to new ways to reimburse hospitals for their services based on quality outcomes and keeping people well.

Meanwhile, it has been estimated that medical knowledge is now doubling every 18 months, triggering major changes in diagnostic tests and treatments.

All of these challenges are playing out in a new consumer-driven era, in which patients with higher deductibles and co-pays are seeking greater value for their healthcare dollar, including improved access and convenience.

Susquehanna Health has been weathering these challenges successfully.

We are a financially strong institution, and have taken steps over the last several years to prepare for the changes we saw coming.

With the support of this community we have created the right facilities, recruited the right professionals and arranged the right partnerships to keep pace with advances in medical science and technology, expand services, and deliver high quality care.

You might say that partnerships are part of our DNA. We have averaged one per year since the merger of Divine Providence Hospital and Muncy Valley Hospital in 1990. More recent examples of our partners include the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital, River Valley YMCA, The Commonwealth Medical College and Cleveland Clinic’s Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute just to name a few. We know from experience that partnerships can greatly benefit the communities we serve.

We are working with our community board through a disciplined, mission-focused process to determine the right partnership to help us continue to thrive not only today but also in the future as this new environment unfolds. We are exploring partnership options that will help us grow services for our community and expand access to our high quality care.

The community leaders and physicians who make up our Board understand this region’s reliance on Susquehanna Health as a major employer and contributor to the local economy.

We will look for a partnership that assures continued growth and family-sustaining jobs for our community.

While healthcare is transforming in front of our eyes, one thing will never change. We will remain committed to the Susquehanna Health mission of improving the health and well-being of our community.

We’ll continue to place Twyla and all patients at the center of everything we do.

I look forward to providing future updates as Susquehanna Health evolves to serve you.

Johnson is president and CEO of Susquehanna Health, a four-hospital integrated health system serving northcentral Pennsylvania. Johnson is the chair of the Board of Directors of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania. He is the incoming chairman of the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York Regional Policy Board of the American Hospital Association (AHA), and a 2016 member of AHA’s national Board of Directors.