Palmetto Health Tuomey leaders eyeing future

Hospital invests in employees, buildings, tech

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 2/27/18

COLUMBIA - In the constantly changing health care services industry with ever-increasing costs to do business, it was a move for the better.

That's the way Palmetto Health Tuomey Chief Operating Officer Dr. Michelle Logan-Owens described the …

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Palmetto Health Tuomey leaders eyeing future

Hospital invests in employees, buildings, tech

M. Todd Warrick, M.D., an interventional pain medicine physician, performs a procedure recently in an operating room at Palmetto Health Tuomey. The Tuomey system campus includes more than 220 physicians and other high-level providers.
M. Todd Warrick, M.D., an interventional pain medicine physician, performs a procedure recently in an operating room at Palmetto Health Tuomey. The Tuomey system campus includes more than 220 physicians and other high-level providers.
CHRIS MOORE / PALMETTO HEALTH TUOMEY
Posted

COLUMBIA - In the constantly changing health care services industry with ever-increasing costs to do business, it was a move for the better.

That's the way Palmetto Health Tuomey Chief Operating Officer Dr. Michelle Logan-Owens described the Sumter hospital's partnership with Palmetto Health - a multi-hospital health care system based in the state's capital.

It has been a little more than two years since Palmetto Health acquired the former Tuomey Healthcare System, and the partnership became operational on Jan. 1, 2016.

Since then, Logan-Owens has added 16 physicians and 13 advance-practice providers to a staff that had immediate needs after Tuomey's $72 million settlement in late 2015 to the U.S. government in a Medicare fraud suit that lasted multiple years.

Palmetto Health Tuomey's employee turnover rate in 2017 was down to 13 percent, she said, after ranging from 22 to 25 percent in 2013-15. The current national average for hospitals is 16 percent, according to Palmetto Health President John Singerling.

In the two years, Palmetto Health has also made $16 million in direct investment to Tuomey that includes capital improvements at the hospital - in technology, medical equipment and infrastructure - and salary increases.

It is all part of Palmetto Health's commitment to re-invest $80 million to $100 million during a 10-year period to the Tuomey campus, Logan-Owens said. A newly expanded emergency room department, valued at $15 million to $20 million, is also on the horizon and might be the most-recognizable piece in the capital investment campaign.

But many future investments will not be in building expansions and high-cost fixed assets, given the challenging health care marketplace, Singerling said.

"The entire health care industry is under a massive amount of change at one period of time," Singerling said. "A lot of this is driven by the fact the federal government, which funds Medicare and helps fund states' Medicaid, it's struggling with how to make all the numbers work in Washington. States' budgets, when they pick up Medicaid, an expansion or additional dollars, they're struggling to say, 'How are we ultimately going to balance the needs when a disproportionate number of dollars seem to be going into health care?'"

The result is hospitals everywhere are facing astronomical increases in costs - from medicine to equipment and other areas - while consumers are seeing a shift back to higher deductibles from employers.

Logan-Owens and Singerling said they see consumers "shopping" much more in the next three to five years to select providers.

Logan-Owens said she sees increases at Tuomey in telehealth, such as apps for smartphones, in the years ahead to improve access to doctors and convenience for consumers.

Singerling said such investments in digital technology were unheard of a decade ago.

Given costs and technology advancements, all hospitals are seeing an increase in outpatient procedures as opposed to two- to three-day inpatient stays a few years ago.

Logan-Owens said her top priorities moving forward at Tuomey are maintaining high-quality patient care, continuing physician recruitment to improve gaps in services with a few key physician groups and valuing all "team members" who are employed throughout the hospital.

According to Logan-Owens and Singerling, promoting wellness and keeping patients in a low-risk category to include home services is also a big part of Palmetto Health's vision, even though that may seem counter-intuitive.

Logan-Owens said Tuomey will be doing more screenings this year with its mobile clinic in rural areas of the region to potentially change outcomes for consumers away from high-risk, acute care that has high costs.

"Given costs, we can't be everything to everybody," Singerling said. "We're trying to strike the balance and transform the business model somewhat from high-cost fixed assets and physical expansions to innovation because of the price dilemma."