Southcoast Health opens up urgent care centers and focuses on preventative care.
By Kat Zeman
The healthcare industry is changing. What used to be a hospital centric system is evolving into one that is focused on the consumer/patient.
Southcoast Health, the largest health care provider in southeastern Massachusetts, whose service area stretches into Rhode Island, is responding to this trend.
“Patients are also consumers and they are looking for ease of access, ease of use and ease of scheduling,” says Keith Hovan, president & CEO. “Because of this increased level of consumerism in healthcare, one of the strategies we started deploying was opening urgent care centers to provide our patients with convenient, high quality, community-based care.”
In the past four years, Southcoast Health has opened six urgent care centers, its seventh to open in February, for patients that need non-emergency care on demand. Roughly 150,000 patients visit these urgent care centers on an annual basis.
“We’ve strategically located our urgent care locations to meet our patient’s needs and make it easier for them to access care conveniently,” Hovan says. “We are bringing high quality, lower-cost care to the patient.”
Southcoast Health infoSouthcoast Health System is a nonprofit network with hospitals in Fall River, New Bedford and Wareham, Mass. In addition to its urgent care centers, the healthcare network has two cancer centers, rehabilitation and lab services, and a Visiting Nurse Association (VNA). It has more than 450 providers through the Southcoast Physicians Group.
To further serve its patients, Southcoast Health formed a partnership with Acadia Healthcare, one of the largest behavioral health providers in the world.
“We built a behavioral health hospital with them three years ago because we recognized that some patients require specialized skillsets,” Hovan says. “That allowed us to quadruple the beds available to patients with behavior health and substance abuse disorders.”
From its award-winning heart care to its accredited cancer center, Southcoast Health delivers nationally recognized care that is locally provided.
“This is a community health system that looks a little different than most other non-academic community health systems,” Hovan adds. “We offer a very comprehensive set of services from basic maternity care to very complex adult surgical services. That includes everything from brain and spine surgery to highly advanced heart and vascular procedures.”
Southcoast Health treats more than 40,000 inpatients in its hospitals on an annual basis. On an outpatient basis, those numbers are in the hundreds of thousands.
Focus on Community
Southcoast Health places a high emphasis on community health. It collaborates with local leaders and organizations to promote and nurture a culture of health and wellness.
“A big focus of our effort right now is improving population health,” Hovan says. “That means we have to think differently about how we care for patients. It’s not just caring for them when they are sick, but meeting them where they live and taking care of them before they get sick. We want to keep them out of the hospital.”
Southcoast Health 2The health system often sends community health workers to visit patients at home. One such healthcare provider visiteda patient suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“She went out to visit this patient and discovered she had no air-conditioning,” Hovan says. “The poor woman was having trouble breathing due to the heat in her apartment.”
Southcoast’s community health worker called her manager to get access to community benefit funds and then went to Home Depot to purchase an air-conditioner for the patient.
“In the late afternoon, that patient could breathe again,” Hovan says. “She could have landed in the ER. We spent $100 to keep her healthy and well at home. It was the right thing to do for the patient.”
Hovan believes that a patient’s health is embedded in the community. A healthy community depends on the status of its neighborhoods, schools and the education of its people.
“Prevention isn’t always about what happensin a doctor’s office,” he says. For example, Southcoast Health identified that two of the cities it serves had high incident rates of childhood obesity.
“So, we have paired up with the cities to build basketball courts and playgrounds,” Hovan says. “You spend money to benefit the community and keep it healthy. That’s what we do. We do it because it’s the right thing to do. Keeping kids active is just a part of our Community Benefit Program.”
Southcoast Health has developed a mission statement that promises to provide “exceptional care from people who care.” Its purpose and mission revolve around providing excellence and delivering exceptional, safe, accessible and convenient care.
“Our culture is a culture of caring, learning and change,” Hovan says. “We have a really compassionate and empathetic staff. Everybody is a care giver – whether you work in the back office, supply chain or delivering hands-on care.”
Southcoast Health’s values are people focused. The healthcare provider values establishing partnerships with patients, families and its communities.
It strives for accountability, compassion and dedication and embraces change. “We are about quality, cost and service,” Hovan says. “We strive for transparent, affordable, and accessible care close to home. Our staff is part of the community we serve. We treat our patients the way we would want our loved ones to be treated.”