The quaint part of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
In a sign of the growing recognition of the importance of taking a wider view of the imperatives of community health, the Maryland Hospital Association says that the state’s hospitals last year provided nearly $1.6 billion in services other than the sort of direct medical care of the type traditionally only offered in hospitals or clinics. That was up from the $1.5 billion they spent on these services in 2015.
The group said its members spent 10 percent of their operating expenses on such non-traditional services as chronic-disease-management programs, free health education and other public-health programs.
The spending also included providing charitable health care for the poor. Still, spending on charitable care fell by about $56 million this year to $428 million, which the association linked to more people having insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. This, the group said, let the hospitals spend more money on other community benefits.
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The Baltimore Sun reports on how hospitals in Maryland, as in many other places, are changing how they deliver care, “focusing more on coordinating services and preventing complications.” And they’re launching a campaign to explain the new approach to the public.
“Called ‘A Breath of Fresh Care,’ the campaign’s goal is to get patients to engage in their care by directing them to hospital wellness and chronic-disease management initiatives, as well as information on interacting with providers or even the process of registering a complaint,” the paper reports.
So the Maryland Hospital Association has set up a Web site called breathoffreshcare.org with links to individual hospitals’ Web sites. And public-education forums will start in the fall.
“Healthcare in Maryland, is evolving by leaps and bounds; gone are the days when consumers sat on the sidelines, detached from their care,” said Carmela Coyle, association president and CEO. “Healthcare in the 21st Century is about patients; hospitals and other providers are looking to their patients and communities like never before as partners in health. Simply put, to enable Marylanders to lead long, healthy lives, we need their help.”
To read The Sun’s story, please hit this link.
Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association, says that moves by municipal, county, state and federal governments to challenge the tax-exempt status of not-for-profit hospitals are a call to arms.
She notes in a Hospital Impact piece that the Affordable Care Act imposed additional requirements that hospitals must meet to keep their tax-exempt status:
- Conduct a community health needs assessment at least once every three years
- Adopt a written financial assistance and emergency medical care policy conforming to statutory criteria
- Do not charge patients eligible for financial assistance more than “amounts generally billed” to insured patients
- Do not begin “extraordinary collection actions” before making “reasonable efforts” to determine if a patient is eligible for financial assistance
Ms. Coyle writes: “While the individual efforts of various states and the requirements in the ACA are more than enough for hospitals to address, there’s something bigger happening. These recent movements appear to be the culmination of a significant and worrisome erosion of the trusted relationships hospitals have enjoyed for so many decades with their communities.”
“There remain many battles to be fought over the tax-exempt nature of hospitals, but fixing the root of this issue won’t take place in a courtroom or legislative hearing room. It will take place in each of the communities that hospitals are privileged to serve. In 2006, the American Hospital Association (AHA) released the 28-page Trust Counts Now report, which called for hospitals to ‘reaffirm their rightful place as valued and vital community resources that merit broad public support.”’
“With hospitals’ very nature under assault due to increased governmental budget pressures, that call is as relevant now as it was a decade ago. A Web site from AHA, Community Connections, offers resources to help with that effort, but it is at the hospital level, where nurses, doctors, trustees and others, will need to begin to rebuild and reaffirm the relationships with their communities, so that hospitals once again are perceived not as a drain on county coffers, but as the invaluable resources they are.”