A Snapshot of Partners Progress- BWH Bulletin - For and about the People of Brigham and Women's Hospital
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June 8, 2001
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In This Issue:
A Snapshot of Partners Progress
Press Ganey Results Are In
BASE Aims to Boost Practice Efficiency
BWH 2001 Service Awards
BWH Welcomes State Representatives
On May 30, BWH hosted its annual Town Meeting featuring Partners HealthCare President and CEO Samuel O. Thier, MD (pictured above). Thier provided an overview of the critical factors in the health care climate affecting Partners’ current activity as they related to Partners’ goals for 2001. Thier’s remarks gave way to a fruitful question and answer session. Thier reviewed changes in the health care environment since Partners was formed in 1994. “In the late eighties and early nineties, hospitals were paid for whatever services they were provided, without much attention paid to costs,” he said. “Since then, hospitals have worked hard and successfully to bring costs down.” “There are still a lot of people who don’t recognize this cost reduction; but in fact, most hospitals in Massachusetts are operating at a loss,” continued Thier. He addressed the findings of the a recent report commissioned by the State Legislature:
Massachusetts is the fourth most efficient state in country in terms of health care;
Massachusetts ranks 50th out of 51 states and the District of Columbia in operating margins; and
Massachusetts is the only state in which the three major payers pay less that the actual cost of services provided.
Despite the financial constraints experienced by Massachusetts hospitals, Thier explained that Boston hospitals are still leading the world in medical advances. “Partners and others in Boston continue to set the pace nationally and globally in the areas of AIDS, minimally invasive surgeries, genomics research, cutting edge ways of fighting cancer, medical errors prevention and xenotransplantation.” Thier emphasized that Partners and its affiliate institutions have and will continue to lobby in the best interest of health care institutions. He explained Partners’ ongoing discussions with both state and federal legislators and the tough negotiations with insurance companies in establishing new contracts that cover the reasonable costs of patient care. “Caregivers in the Boston area are the best providers in the region and among the best in the world. It costs money to provide the level of care that we do. We have to pay our people good wages. We can’t afford to lose our nursing staff. For all these reasons, we must be paid what it costs to provide our services,” said Thier. He offered some encouraging words that both state and federal legislatures are listening and added that Partners will continue to insist that every new insurance contract covers the cost of care. “We will not fold on the principles we have put forward,” he said. Setting the tone for the challenges for health care in the near future, Thier then focused on Partners’ 2001 Goals to offset some of these and other health care challenges in the coming months before opening up the floor for questions from the audience. The following are excerpts from that session at which Thier was joined by BWH President Jeff Otten: Q: Is there anyone on the national scene who is willing to be an advocate in the coming years to reverse the damaging effects to health care industry caused by the Balanced Budget Act in order to bring reimbursement levels back to where they should be? A: (ST) The BBA did a lot of positive things, obviously balancing the budget was one of them. However, with such an effort, there were bound to be winners and losers, and it’s clear that the impact on health care has been disastrous. The health care industry has been fortunate to have leaders like U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy to support our cause. Senators Kennedy, Arlen Specter, William Frist and Daniel Moynihan (retired) took the lead in recruiting 15 to 20 senators to work on the difficulties hospitals faced as a result of the BBA. I think Washington is getting the message that we are not being wasteful with our money and that we need this funding to care for our patients. Q: In light of expanding cardiac surgery programs into designated community hospitals, have there been any talks between Partners and South Shore Hospital to join forces? A: (ST) On the Partners front, no. A: (JO) We continue to have very robust clinical affiliations with South Shore Hospital. BWH and South Shore have a collaborative relationship for service lines such as cardiology and obstetrics, as South Shore is an important portal for BWH in terms of referrals. However, we don’t have a formal relationship with South Shore like we have with Faulkner Hospital. Collaborative relationships with many hospitals in Massachusetts and New England are essential for us to succeed as a major tertiary referral center. Q: In your presentation you highlighted growth within Partners. Does Partners have a policy toward growth? Is more always better? A: (ST) I don’t think major increases in the size of the system are in the cards. Instead, we need to concentrate on areas in which we have special excellence and build on them. We also need to be more efficient. A good example of that is better use of all beds at Faulkner, Newton-Wellesley and North Shore Medical Center. That alone would help relieve some of the pressure of our increased patient volume at BWH and MGH. A: (JO) We are severely constrained here at BWH. We are getting to the point where we are caring for too many patients in too small of a space. However, with the help of Partners we are actually programming our clinical and research growth through both building and leasing more space to better concentrate on our specialty services that Dr. Thier mentioned. Over the course of the next 18 to 36 months, we should see tremendous relief on the space constraints we are currently witnessing.