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Hospitals brainstorm ways to improve
Riverton Memorial Hospital maternity nurse Kristie Jorgason checked the vitals of a newborn baby recently at RMS. Hospital staff nurses may be taking on more care-related responsibilities under new federal laws. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

Hospitals brainstorm ways to improve

Oct 4, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff Writer

Teams from both Lander Regional and Riverton Memorial hospitals are working through the next couple of months to perform joint strategic planning.

Fifteen people from each hospital, three from five different staff areas, met Aug. 25 to begin strategic planning. General staff, department directors, physicians, executive team members and board members made up the represented staff areas.

"The idea was to get a full cross-section of the entire hospital," said Lander hospital board chairman Joe Quiroz.

Riverton hospital board chairman Roger Gose was impressed by the day's success.

"It was really, frankly, a precedent setting experience," Gose said.

Both facilities are owned by LifePoint Hospitals, and Gose said it was the company's directive to have Lander and Riverton strategize together without corporate involvement.

Quiroz said the day's discussions started with a review of suggestions brought out by community members at a dialogue dinner held two days before.

Individuals at the dinner supplied written ideas of how the hospitals could collaborate.

Quiroz said what came of the ideas and the following joint planning session was "something that was very, very logical but wasn't earth-shaking."

Four core areas were singled out by the planning group, each encompassing different aspects of change that came from the dialogue dinner.

Quality of care, information technology, partnering with other health care providers and culture change are the four areas, Quiroz said.

Four teams of about eight members, including representatives from each hospital, will meet individually throughout the next couple of months. Each team is assigned to explore one of the core areas.

Quiroz said it will be important for the teams to keep changes simple.

"Rather than looking at big, huge change ... we're looking at the basic building blocks," he said.

He added that they're not in a position to create a single campus or jump into a capital construction project.

Quiroz broke down what could be included in each of the four core areas.

Quality of care could include aligning physician and operational services, he said.

Gose noted that the information technology component could involve only one hospital getting a new, expensive piece of equipment instead of both purchasing it.

Quiroz said the IT element could also involve bundled billing and better flow of information between the two.

Partnering with other health care organizations could come in the form of easing transitions for patients to Fremont Counseling or facilities out of state, Quiroz suggested. The culture change, he said, would create a focus on making the patient the "highest priority" and making them a participant in health care rather than someone who visits only when sick.

Quiroz said the hospitals need to recognize that patients have a choice to go elsewhere for care.

Gose said discussions at the Saturday meeting were "cordial" but occasionally during talks of specifics, some people got emotional.

"I was expecting great participation, but I didn't understand how committed that group of people is," Quiroz said.

He added that much of the discussion was "heartfelt."

Quiroz said the teams will report to the hospital boards on their progress.

In late October, all four teams will meet with a consultant to review their progress. More breakout work will follow to hone the planning.

Lander hospital CEO Steve Erixon said the hospitals hope to have actionable items nailed down by early next year.

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