By TERRENCE DWYER
Messenger staff writer
As the 2012 begins, Sue Thompson, president and chief executive officer of Trinity Health Systems, is bullish about the future of Trinity Regional Medical Center and Trimark Physicians Group - the two largest components of Fort Dodge-based THS.
The steel framework of the new Cancer Center is rising into the sky at Trinity Regional Medical Center.
She said dramatic success in physician recruitment during the last two years has greatly strengthened Trinity's ability to serve Fort Dodge and neighboring communities. Fifteen additional physicians in nine specialties either joined the medical staff during 2011 or were committed to do so in 2012.
Thompson said she is especially pleased to report that the hospital is on the verge of solving a persistent shortage of orthopaedic surgeons on its staff. She said the hard work of recruiting the needed specialists in a highly competitive marketplace has produced positive results. Consequently, the hospital is moving ahead fast with plans to become a regional "center of excellence" for patients in need of orthopaedic care.
In September 2011, the physician manpower in this specialty doubled at Trinity. Dr. Jeffrey Luna, an orthopaedic surgeon who in addition to general orthopaedics specializes in tumor surgery, spine surgery and joint reconstruction, joined Dr. Richard Bergstrom at Trinity Orthopaedics.
In July 2012, the physician complement in this key specialty will double once again. Thompson said two additional orthopaedic surgeons - Dr. Prasad Purudappa and Dr. Benjamin Tuy - have been recruited to further expand the capabilities of Trinity Orthopaedics.
Luna told The Messenger last fall that a major reason he was attracted to Trinity was the hospital's determination to become a significant center for orthopaedic care. Thompson said the expansion of the orthopaedic complement at TRMC to four surgeons puts the medical center well on the road to achieving that goal.
Finding physicians and persuading them to join the Trinity team is a challenging undertaking, but it is absolutely vital to the hospital's future according to Thompson. For Trinity to offer truly state-of-the-art medical care, having a diverse roster of specialists is a critical ingredient because bringing the latest technology to Fort Dodge requires the hospital to have specialists skilled in its use.
She said the aggressive recruitment efforts in recent years have been successful and will continue in 2012. Thompson said a priority is adding specialists in family practice and internal medicine.
Trinity has long had cancer prevention and treatment programs. What was missing, however, was the technology necessary to provide radiation therapy. In 2010, however, the local medical center received the necessary government approval to purchase a linear accelerator. Once that expensive high-tech equipment is in place, Trinity will be able to provide comprehensive care for cancer patients, Thompson said.
Construction is under way of an expansion of the hospital so that the new radiation oncology capabilities and Trinity's already well-established cancer programs can be housed together in a new $8.5 million Trinity Cancer Center. Troy Martens, Trinity's chief operating officer, said the new Cancer Center is on schedule to be completed by August and should be fully operational by fall.
The health care world is changing rapidly. Thompson said keeping Trinity Health Systems in sync with those changes that will benefit patients is a key goal.
Two major developments illustrate this commitment: 1) The local medical center's lead role in modernizing medical record keeping and 2) The selection late in 2012 of TRMC and Trimark Physicians Group to participate in the federal government's Pioneer Accountable Organization Model.
On Oct. 1, 2011, Trinity Regional Medical Center be came the first of the seven senior affiliates of Iowa Health System to implement electronic patient records. That puts the Fort Dodge-based medical center at the cutting edge of a new era of record keeping that promises to enhance the quality of the care patients receive.
This initiative is rapidly making the hefty paper files that traditionally have constituted the patient record as obsolete in the hospital setting as carbon paper and typewriters are in a modern office.
Thompson said she and her team are excited that the local hospital was selected to take the lead in this major transition at the state's first and largest integrated health system. She stressed that the change will have major benefits for patients statewide as Iowa Health brings electronic records online at all its hospitals during the next two years.
"The ... project is much more than the implementation of a new information technology system," Thompson said. "The project is redesigning workflow for all caregivers, improving patient safety and makes patient information more available and accurate."
Improving patient care and improving the efficiency of its delivery are at the heart of the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization Model to be implemented locally over the next few years. In December 2011, it was announced that TRMC and Trimark had been selected to be one of only 32 such pilot projects nationally. According to a statement issued by Iowa Health System in December, through the Pioneer ACO Model, Trimark and Trinity will work with the federal government's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Innovation Center "to provide Medicare beneficiaries with higher quality care, while reducing growth in Medicare expenditures through enhanced care coordination."
Thompson said Trinity Health Systems is well-positioned to undertake this innovative five-year project.
"Forming an Accountable Care Organization is a logical step for both Trimark and Trinity," she said. "Both the doctors and the hospital have long been integrated into a cohesive health care team. The ACO will expand upon that integration, maximizing patient health information to focus on better short-term and long-term outcomes for Medicare members."
Thompson said it is exciting to be part of a major initiative aimed at making the health care system work better for patients.
"The opportunity to improve care coordination appeals to all of us," she said. "It can be improved a lot. We have examples every day where communication breaks down. We know there's got to be a better way to do it."
Contact Terrence Dwyer at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org