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Hospital moving toward rural clinic designation

SoVaNow.com / July 09, 2020
Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital is continuing to work toward becoming part of the Provider Based Rural Health Clinic (PBRHC) program, a federal initiative aimed at bolstering financially-strapped hospitals in underserved areas that have difficulty recruiting and retaining physicians.

In a media statement Tuesday explaining the transition, Sentara HRH noted the designation will increase the emphasis on outpatient services and primary care, and lead to “a more patient-centric program, which allows for expanded services and better access for existing and new patients,” according to the release.

Hospital officials expect the transition to be complete by Jan. 1.

To qualify for the Provider Based Rural Health Clinic program, the hospital will be required to limit the number of unique in-patient beds to 49. “Our current average daily census is 36 inpatients, and we have only surpassed the 49 bed limit 35 times over the past year,” said the statement, issued by Joni Henderson, interim customer development and marketing consultant for Sentara HRH.

The federal designation will allow the hospital to qualify for federal aid for the recruitment of physicians, which in turn will enhance the quality of care, whether in-patient or out-patient, according to Sentara officials. Sentara HRH also will receive higher reimbursement rates for care provided through Medicare and Medicaid, which cover an overwhelming share of the hospital’s patients.

“As healthcare and the needs of our patients continue to evolve, SHRH is taking this step in order to better position us to support increased access and delivery of care in our rural community for years to come,” said Brian Zwoyer, president of Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital.

The statement by Sentara Halifax Regional reads as follows:

Health care is changing on a daily basis. Rural health care is under particular stress to deliver high quality, cost effective care. In the current environment, this has become increasingly difficult. Over the past several years, Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital (SHRH) has faced financial challenges with decreasing hospital volumes. As a result, SHRH worked to identify the best route to take — first and foremost focusing on delivering the best possible care for our community.

As previously announced in September 2019, SHRH is transitioning to a Provider Based Rural Health Clinic (PBRHC) program. This transition will be implemented Jan. 1, 2021 with additional emphasis on outpatient services and primary care. The inpatient bed count will evolve to meet the measures required by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

It is imperative for SHRH to make these important changes to ensure we are in the best position to deliver the necessary healthcare services for the communities we serve. This new program further aligns our primary care clinics and hospital to support access and delivery of care in a rural community.

This designation creates a more patient-centric program, which allows for expanded services and better access for existing and new patients. “As healthcare and the needs of our patients continue to evolve, SHRH is taking this step in order to better position us to support increased access and delivery of care in our rural community for years to come,” states Brian Zwoyer, President of Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital.

What is the Provider Based Rural Health Clinic designation?

The PBRHC designation is a program administered by CMS to aid communities where recruiting and retaining physicians can be difficult and access to healthcare is limited. The overarching goal of this program is to make the care that we provide sustainable by offering healthcare services to our patients in appropriate outpatient settings, while admitting patients who require an inpatient hospital setting. For patients who can be seen at an outpatient facility, this designation will support increased access to high-quality care outside of the traditional hospital setting. Our participation in the PBRHC program also supports the retention and recruitment of physicians and advanced practice providers, an important need for our community. Finally, the program offers an enhanced reimbursement rate for Medicaid and Medicare patients seen in a practice setting to aid organizations in remaining financially stable.

What does this mean for hospital operations?

To meet eligibility, we must adhere to a specific patient flow policy in the hospital, which is maintaining census at 49 inpatients or less. With this, there will be 49 designated unique beds for inpatients. The composition of the beds will be determined soon and will include an Intensive Care Unit, Medical/Surgical, and Women’s Services. Observation beds will be available and will have no limit.

Our current average daily census is 36 inpatients, and we have only surpassed the 49 bed limit 35 times over the past year. Bed management and integrated care management will play a crucial role in making sure we are assigning patients to the right beds efficiently and in timely manner. With the right measures in place, we can actively manage how patients flow through our hospital and meet this goal with little impact to our hospital patient volumes, as they exist today.

Capital improvements will accompany the project. Our customer-focused vision for the future will include reevaluating our master facilities plan to improve patient flow and the patient experience emphasizing our focus on outpatient services.

How does this better position Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital for success?

Healthcare is evolving, especially in rural communities. Our participation in the PBRHC will support the retention and recruitment of physicians and advanced practice providers, creating a more patient-centric program, which allows for expanded services and better access for existing and new patients. We have seen over the past few months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that new care models are evolving including expanded use of virtual care.

Every organization needs to examine itself periodically to adapt to changes in the healthcare landscape. As the trend towards more integrated outpatient care continues, SHRH is adapting to provide the highest quality of care for our rural communities and positioning SHRH for a successful future so we can continue to serve the people of our community for years to come. “The transformation aligns with the Sentara mission, “We Improve Health Every Day,”” Zwoyer said.



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