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Health Watch – Finding Your Medical Home

POSTED September 15, 2010 12:59 a.m.
Let’s face it. The most asked question about the recently passed health care legislation is “who is going to pay for what and how?” Until regulations are completed, none of us can answer that question yet.

However, the question uppermost in my mind is “how will this legislation affect the quality of care a hospital provides?”

A part of that answer lies in some new terminology in the legislation. In months to come, you will see a lot of references to a “medical home.” What exactly is a “medical home?” In one sense, that term is similar to the old “cradle to grave” concept the elder generation may remember. I suppose advertising marketers might even call it “one-stop shopping.”

In simple language, this is all about a concentrated effort to provide a complete array of medical services from wellness and prevention to planned disease treatment to crisis intervention to recovery within a single health care system or network. The availability of this “medical home” would allow individuals to seek and receive health care in an organized, interconnected environment close to where they live, study and work.

Ironically, it may be easier for some small rural hospital districts to more readily achieve this “medical home” status than it will be for large specialized medical practices and facilities in metropolitan communities.

After close study, I believe the Oak Valley Hospital network of medical services can actually serve as a role model for the “medical home” concept. We can be the hospital network that others look to as they strive to meet this standard.

Almost everyone in this area is familiar with Oak Valley’s Emergency Care unit and ambulance services. In times of crisis, we are there. Our hospital is also well known for maternity delivery, general surgery, and long-term care. Lesser known services include outpatient services like imaging (X-rays), lab work (blood tests) and other physician recommended diagnostic services.

Our medical staff includes some of the most respected physicians in the area. In addition, 132 physicians admit patients for care and treatment at Oak Valley because they are confident of the quality of patient care and safety.

Perhaps less known but becoming increasingly popular are our community clinics in Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon where we offer a full range of medical services to MediCal patients and any patient on a sliding fee scale with or without insurance. Our new Sleep Center offers treatment previously only available outside the area.

Our Oak Valley Care Center is one of the best known and respected facilities in the county. At the point when a family member requires this type of care, you want the facility close to home and you want compassionate and professional care. The Center is a part of the Oak Valley network of services, a part of our medical home.

Our Nurse Call service is available 24/7 to anyone who lives in the area. Anyone experiencing a medical crisis and is unsure how to respond can call and speak with a registered nurse at no cost. We offer numerous classes and seminars to address chronic diseases like diabetes and preventive measures to insure good health. The Family Support Network provides parenting skills and dozens of other health related services. The list goes on and on.

One of the major components of health care legislation is the requirement of hospitals and physician practices to convert to electronic medical records. Candidly, that reality is still in the distant future for most healthcare facilities. Oak Valley Hospital is far ahead of most hospitals in the Valley and the state in implementing this requirement. We currently maintain electronic medical records for all inpatients and are moving toward providing them for outpatients as well.

Of course, in unusual instances, you may be referred to a facility specializing in specific care. But, the “medical home” concept means you will always have a base, at home, where a coordinated team of professionals treat you as a “regular” and not an isolated visitor.

When people think of Oak Valley Hospital, they think of a place they go when they are injured, hurt, face surgery or another crisis. They think of the Emergency Room. They think of acute care. Yes, we are that. But, we are more. We are this community’s complete network of health care services. We are in fact a “medical home.”

We are what hundreds of other health care systems and facilities will need to become to meet the standards of quality care legislated by health care reform.

 

John Friel is the Chief Executive Officer for Oak Valley Hospital. Look for the Health Watch column the third Wednesday of each month in The Oakdale Leader and periodically in The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times.

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