Piedmont Henry takes steps to improve quality of health

STOCKBRIDGE — Following several community collaborations and town hall meetings over an 18-month period, Piedmont Henry Hospital announced plans and future steps to build a healthier Henry County.

Piedmont Henry Hospital recently completed a community health needs assessment and developed implementation plans for the Henry County community.

“What we found was not surprising and is similar for many communities— limited access to health care for the uninsured and under-insured, mental health related conditions, and high incidences of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke,” said Holly Lang, director of community benefit at Piedmont Healthcare. “But one size does not fit all. Each community is different as far as prioritizing those needs and where Piedmont can have the most impact by working alongside existing community groups.”

According to a press release, public health data and collaboration with community leaders, stakeholders and other community representatives allowed Piedmont leadership to determine priority health issues and develop strategies to address them, such as the number of people affected, the seriousness of the issue, whether the health need particularly affects people living in poverty or reflects health disparities (gaps in quality care/access to care for populations of people) and availability of hospital resources along with community resources to address the need.

Diana Lewis, Public Relations Director for Piedmont Healthcare, said there were 10 meetings total — eight focus groups and two stakeholder meetings. She added that there were 51 engaged members of the community who participated in the town hall meetings, which was a higher participation level in any other Piedmont community.

“It was very in- depth and we had town hall meetings again when we told everyone about the plans and how we were going to move forward,” Lewis said.

Through this process, Piedmont Henry Hospital identified the four priority issues for the Henry County community:

• Increased access to necessary and appropriate care for uninsured and under-insured patients;

• Reduced preventable readmissions and emergency department re-encounters;

• Reduced instances of preventable heart disease and stroke;

• Reduced rates of teen birth rates and increased access to prenatal care.

Over the next three years, Piedmont Henry Hospital will address these issues through a multi-faceted approach and implementation plans which will rely on active participation of a coalition of community resources and leaders. According to a press release, plans to address these issues include:

• developing an emergency department care coordination program working with relevant community partners such as the Hands of Hope Clinic to target preventable encounters;

• providing support for an expansion of the Hands of Hope Clinic through connectivity of electronic medical records and provision of diagnostics services at no cost to clinic patients;

• creating community based partnerships to address underlying mental health needs as well as a resource guide of mental health resources to help community members self-identify potential mental health issues;

• continuing to provide financial assistance to qualifying low-income, uninsured patients;

• providing relevant materials into appropriate languages:

• developing a patient care self-management system with careful discharge planning, medication management and post admission follow-up to ensure continued good health;

• creating a program for the hospital to provide health specific information to those who come in contact with members of more vulnerable communities;

• creating the Healthy Henry program to foster independent, healthy lifestyles focusing on assessment, nutrition, exercise and monitoring;

• continuing to provide free and reduced-cost prenatal care to qualifying women, including teen mothers;

• forming peer support groups for teen moms facilitated by a trained worker who can relate to language and culture differences, and link teen moms to programs addressing socioeconomic barriers, and promotion of activities to overcome those barriers.

Lewis said the plan is designed to improve the overall health of the community rather than to directly benefit the hospital.

She said hospital officials are excited about the changes, but it’s not something that’s going to be fixed over night. She said it’s going to require collaborative effort from the hospital, stakeholders and community members.

“It’s important that we all work on it together,” Lewis said, but so far she said community involvement has been great.

Piedmont Henry Hospital is a full-service facility with 215 beds, and is the only hospital within the county. The hospital was founded in 1979 as Henry General Hospital.

In fiscal year 2011, Piedmont Henry Hospital provided approximately $5.37 million in financial assistance for low-income uninsured patients and suffered $4 million in shortfalls from treating Medicaid patients. It also provided:

• $133,699 in community health improvement services and community benefit oversight;

• $384,528 in educating future health professionals;

• $8.5 million in subsidized health services;

• $43,526 dedicated to relevant research activities;

• $217,579 in community building activities;

• $46,607 in cash and in-kind contributions to nonprofit community groups.