Assessment cites VDMC community benefits

Van Diest Medical Center provides $2,402,723 in community benefits to Hamilton County, according to a recently completed assessment of those programs and services.

Hospital officials said that amount, based on fiscal year 2012 figures, includes $2,256,692 in uncompensated care and $146,031 in free or discounted community and business benefits that Van Diest Medical Center specifically implemented to help Hamilton County residents.

Community benefits are activities designed to improve health status and increase access to health care. Along with uncompensated care (which includes both charity care and bad debt), community benefits include such services and programs as health/wellness screenings, support groups, counseling, immunizations, nutritional services and transportation programs.

The results for Van Diest Medical Center are included in a statewide report by the Iowa Hospital Association (IHA) that shows Iowa hospitals provided community benefits in 2012 valued at nearly $1.6 billion, including more than $641 million in charity care. All 118 of Iowa’s community hospitals participated in the survey.

“The report demonstrates the accountability Iowa hospitals have to their communities. Beyond our doors where we make sure patients do not go without necessary medical care, Van Diest Medical Center is committed to improving health in the communities we serve. Each community has unique health needs and we want to respond to those needs by working together to provide the tools and resources to help create a healthier population in Hamilton County,” said hospital CEO Robert Mason.

Van Diest Medical Center provides free lab tests and X-ray services to patients at the Webster City Free Clinic, and provides wellness screenings to community members and businesses on a daily basis at a significant discount, with the intent of improving the health of local and county residents.

The programs and services accounted for in the survey were implemented in direct response to the needs of individual communities as well as entire counties and regions. Many of these programs and services simply would not exist without hospital support and leadership, said IHA President and CEO Kirk Norris. The ability of Iowa hospitals to respond to such needs is hampered by the slow recovery from the economic downturn as well as reduced reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, totaling more than $289 million. Van Diest Medical Center’s share of that loss in reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid was $9,126,288. Hospitals serving small, rural communities and counties are particularly dependent on the programs; more than 60 percent of all hospital revenue in Iowa comes from Medicare and Medicaid.

“Charity care provided by Van Diest Medical Center has increased 44 percent since the fiscal year ending in 2010, and is anticipated to continue to increase in the current economic environment,” said VDMC Chief Financial Officer Alice Heinrichs. “Bad debt has increased from 3.75 percent of gross revenue in the fiscal year ending in 2010, to 4.30 percent in 2012, which equates to an increase of $211,472.”

Iowa hospitals, which employ more than 70,000 people, continue to implement strategies that increase value to their patients and communities by offering high-quality care to individuals, addressing the health needs of identified populations and implementing process improvements that bend the cost curve. By seeking out ways to raise quality, reduce waste and increase safety, Iowa hospitals have become value leaders, as shown in multiple studies by the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care and the Commonwealth Fund.

VDMC continues to partner with the University of Iowa in the Team STEPPS program through quarterly on-site visits. Team STEPPS is a nationally-implemented evidence-based teamwork system aimed at optimizing patient outcomes by improving communication and teamwork skills. Implementation of specific reporting techniques has proven invaluable in the delivery of quality patient care at the hospital.