Firm foundation helps hospital through challenging times
By MATTHEW GROSS
Fisher-Titus Health CEO
Nothing is easy in health care these days. It’s a complicated industry, and we are currently in an unprecedented time of change.
While the changing market poses similar challenges for all types of hospitals, independent community hospitals find themselves in an especially difficult position. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 85 rural hospitals have closed between January 2010 and July 2018.
The changes we face today could not have been imagined by the health-care leaders of 1957, the year Fisher-Titus Hospital in Norwalk opened its doors. But, 61 years later, we remain committed to the belief that the best way to deliver high-quality health care to our community is the ability to make decisions locally about that care.
The visionary leadership – by community members who serve voluntarily on our board of directors and by our hospital administrative leaders – as well as the dedication of our physicians and employees from our past and today, provides us a firm foundation for us to face current challenges.
The original “infrastructure” built by the leaders of 1957 – Fisher-Titus Memorial Hospital – has been well cared for and nurtured over the years. Those leaders would not recognize the hospital today, but its core is still intact within the 426,000-square-foot Medical Center, which features patient and family-friendly amenities and the latest medical technology. The farm fields that surrounded the hospital 61 years ago have transformed to a 50-acre medical campus that offers patients convenient access to physician offices and other medical services. “Off campus” facilities like the North Side office and satellite physician offices provide increased access for patients.
Patient-centered care is a focal point of the current health care reformation. At Fisher-Titus, patient-focused decision-making — not just treating patients — has always guided our actions. Developing new programs, recruiting physicians to provide needed specialties and introducing new service lines have all focused on serving the health needs of the community.
Maintaining a strong corps of primary care physicians and specialists has been critical to our hospital’s independence. When Fisher-Titus Hospital opened, there were 16 physicians representing four medical specialties on the Medical Staff. Today we have 204 members who represent 35 specialties. Our Medical Staff includes both independent physicians and physicians employed by Fisher-Titus. Over the past five years, we’ve focused on expanding our employed group of primary care and specialty physicians, nurse practitioners or physician assistants to increase access to care for our community.
Meeting patient needs by developing service lines such as rehabilitation, cancer care and heart care has been a focus for us over the years. When it has not been possible for us to offer services “by ourselves,” we’ve formed strategic alliances with others. The collaborative efforts of Fisher-Titus, New Beginnings Pediatrics and Akron Children’s Hospital, for instance, has provided families local access to pediatric specialists for over 25 years
Hospitals that wish to remain independent must have financial strength. Adapting to changes in payment models from insurers, continued decreases in reimbursements from government programs, regulatory burdens and shifting policies are challenging both the financial and human resources of hospitals across our country. Many hospitals are fighting to survive – potentially leaving their communities at risk for losing access to health care services. We are not immune to these trends. We are working hard to navigate through current challenges and chart our course for continued success in the future.
Finally, the convenience of receiving high quality health care in our community cannot be overstated. Fisher-Titus is accredited by Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program and is a Primary Stroke Center and a Level 3 Trauma Center and maintains numerous other accreditations and recognitions. We’ve consistently earned high grades for patient safety, quality and patient experience.
As a not-for-profit community hospital, our “shareholders” include every member of each community we serve. In turn, it is important for those we serve to use our services to help insure growth and financial stability so we can continue to meet our community’s expectations and accommodate our patients well into the future.
Matthew Gross is CEO of Fisher-Titus Health system, which serves Norwalk, Huron County and the region. Fisher-Titus Health provides the area’s 70,000-plus residents a full continuum of care including a 99-bed acute care hospital, a 69-bed skilled nursing facility, a 48-unit assisted living facility, an employed physician group, emergency transportation service and retail pharmacy.