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Health service district adopts new strategic plan

Quietly and without more discussion than the necessary motion, second and vote, the Upper San Juan Health Service District Board of Directors approved their strategic plan Tuesday night.

The board developed a core plan last year, then updated the plan this year to include more specifics, said Brad Cochennet, CEO of Pagosa Mountain Hospital. The plan will continue to be updated on a yearly basis.

The plan consists of the entity’s mission, vision and four stated values, as well as four strategies and tactics aligned with those strategies.

The new mission, according to the document, is to “Develop Upper San Juan Health Service District into an integrated health care resource system through service, leadership, and community partnership.” The statement replaced the old mission of, “Upper San Juan Health Service District will grow into as much of an integrated health care delivery system as possible.”

The document’s vision states that the district, “will be served by a fully integrated health care delivery system providing the highest level of care for optimum cost. Wellness, early detection, primary care, EMS and hospital services will be implemented with continuous operational improvements to impact the community with the broadest healthcare system possible.”

Listed values are, as the top priority, to pursue the widest span of services possible for the community; concern and care for each individual patient; professional progress of all staff members; and a willingness to change with society.

For the first listed strategy, having a care network available for all patients, the district hopes to:

• Integrate an informational system that meets regulatory standards to allow patient information to be shared when appropriate, with hopes of “seamless and economical” patient care.

• Provide community-based care, including preventative, wellness opportunities, mental health, general primary care and hospital acute care, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.

• Evaluate cost versus benefits on an on-going basis to ensure quality, economical care, while using operational strategies to the same end.

• Use benchmarks and industry standards to determine operational efficiencies in comparison to other entities.

• Support a team approach to patient care to keep patients in the community, but referring them to higher levels of care when necessary.

• Clear pricing and payment options to improve a patient’s ability to pay and understand the cost.

In accomplishing the second strategy, expanding the existing base of services with services that are “clinically and financially appropriate,” the district’s listed tactics include:

• “Develop a hospitalist program to better employ inpatient capabilities.”

• Where possible, expand outpatient services.

• Develop partnerships with other hospitals and providers in the area to leverage additional medical services.

• “Acquire improved technology to provide access to information and increase the capability for providing care in our community through electronic connection i.e. telemedicine”

• “Provide critical care ambulance capability in our district and surrounding region.”

The document’s third listed strategy for implementing the mission and vision is to use community resources, such as developing community partnerships in health-related services. Tactics for the strategy include:

• Developing new partnerships with community entities with overlapping health service roles.

• “Provide leadership in community education on health-related issues.”

• “Develop an insurance product for the community that allows for broad community participation and to optimize the use of community resources.”

The last of the strategies is to develop financial reserves sufficient for long-term stability via three listed tactics:

• Have the Dr. Mary Fisher Foundation contribute annually through the development of an endowed balance.

• “Develop balance sheet cash reserves that meet board standards of acceptability.”

• “Grow service activity to cover operational costs from services provided.”

Though it passed quietly, the approval of the expanded strategic plan is exciting for those involved.

“We’re excited to be planning future health care services for the community beyond the basic hospital and EMS footprint,” Cochennet said.

Also of note that was announced in the meeting was the setting of a new record by the hospital in terms of patient numbers — the hospital cared for seven inpatient, Swing-bed patients at one time last week, Cochennet said. Swing-bed patients require skilled nursing services.

Following the regular portion of the meeting, the board went into executive session, after which they reappointed the following providers: Dr. James Pruitt, Dr. Mark Wienpahl, Dr. Bob Brown and Dan Keuning, N.P. The board also appointed Dr. Valerie McKinnis.

McKinnis, coming to Pagosa Springs from Durango, did her undergraduate studies and attended medical school at Loyola University, where she graduated in 2003, then completed her residency training in family medicine at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Denver. For the last 6.5 years, McKinnis has worked for the Indian Health Service in Shiprock, N.M., and Ignacio as a family medicine physician.

While serving the full spectrum of patients, McKinnis’ special interests are women’s health, obstetric care and the management of chronic medical problems.