Provisions of recent health-care reform legislation and the approval of President Obama’s stimulus plan are affecting not only individuals, but also hospitals such as Grady Memorial Hospital, a long-time Emory partner.
Grady is one of the largest public hospitals in the United States and Atlanta’s only Level-1 trauma center.
Of Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package, approved in February, $36.5 billion is going towards a creating a network of electronic health records from hospitals nationwide.
The network, which aims to provide an accurate and efficient method of medical reporting, is a response to studies indicating that much of the $2.5 trillion spent on health care annually is wasted on duplicating tests and unnecessary procedures.
According to Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Planning at Grady Matt Gove, the hospital is still making the transition to electronic recording.
Gove said the electronic system is being installed at a “very rapid pace” and will finish by the end of October.
The project is made possible by the Woodruff Foundation Gift, which in 2008 committed to an overall contribution of $200 million throughout a period of four years.
“So much of what we do here at Grady is now on paper, which can be a difficult process, and obviously storing all of that paper is an enormous challenge,” Gove explained. “[Electronic medical records] will make us more efficient and will help bring us into the modern era.”
Keeping data electronically will provide for quicker communication and reduced paperwork, according to Gove, and is estimated to save up to tens of billions of dollars a year.
“We’ve been instituting new efficiencies in the revenue, billing and collecting of the work that we’re actually doing,” Gove said.
In addition to the electronic medical records provision of health-care reform, Gove said the projected influx of newly insured individuals, estimated to be tens of millions, will also influence Grady’s operations. This will provide Grady with more revenue, he said, since the hospital will be paid for services that it currently provides without significant reimbursement. But Gove noted that this could decrease the amount received from the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program, which reimburses hospitals who deliver Medicaid care.
“That program will shrink as more and more folks are on insurance rolls, and so the timing of how that works out is extremely important to us,” Gove said. “It would be unfortunate if the DSH support that we get started to go away before patients were able to become insured because then we’d be left with no payments.”
Gove said another challenge might be competition for patients.
“There will be patients who previously came to Grady because their options were limited and who will now, because they are insured, become more attracted to other hospitals and providers, so we are working right now to put ourselves on equal footing with those other hospitals,” he said.
Gove added that Grady has improved the quality of care by reaching and even surpassing national standards in every aspect of hospital care — after pouring resources into specialty services that other hospitals do not have, such as the Marcus Stroke and Neuroscience Center, the most advanced stroke and neuroscience center in the region.
Gove said the hospital is also working on “the basics,” including patient access and parking. Satisfaction numbers, he added, are the highest they have been in four years.
“Grady’s the largest hospital in the state, and so we should be able to perform like that and live up to the idea that Grady can be a health-care leader and not simply the safety net,” Gove said.
Senior Editor Kate Borger contributed reporting.
— Contact Alice Chen