GHS Explains $16 Million Budget Dip On Road Towards “Population Health”

16 million dollars is the red is no place Greenville Health System’s CFO, Terri Newsom, wants to stay.

“We’re working to be in the black by the end of the year,” said Newsome, addressing the GHS Board, Tuesday.

Newsome said it will require cuts of 410 positions, though that doesn’t necessarily mean people.

“First and foremost will go towards not filling vacancies,” Newsome explained.

She said they will also reign in spending on items and projects that aren’t considered a “need.”

“We know how much we need to cut out,” explained Newsome regarding their plans to re-prioritize capital spending.

Much of this is now public knowledge following last week’s announcement, but 7 News reporter Addie Hampton asked Newsom, Tuesday, how they got to this current financial situation.

“What we’ve seen in the first four months of this year – a relatively light flu season – so that’s one of the things impacting us. We also brought on a new electronic medical record and it takes a period of time for our physicians to get used to that new tool, so it slows down some of their visit numbers,” explained Newsom.

Both things are part of a mentality they’ve adopted called “population health.” Bottom line, it is an emphasis on community wellness and preventative care through coordinated efforts. It means more people are healthy and less people are coming to the hospital.

“That creates less business for a healthcare delivery system and that’s our objective to lower the overall cost of care,” said Newsome.

Is this the future of health care? Medical experts in the population health field say “yes,” despite the expensive start-up costs that have created financial headaches like the one GHS is seeing.

“You need to make the investments in order to yield the returns now,” explained Dr. Drew Harris, Director of the Population Health Masters program and Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “In some sense it is back to the future. Going back to the way things were a long time ago, but I do see more consolidation of hospitals, I see hospitals willing to work together with each other.”

There may be financial dips in the transition, said Harris, but the reward is healthier people through a greater emphasis on data sharing via electronic record integration. Ultimately, patients may be spending less time at the hospital and more time with primary care physicians under the health system umbrella as the focus on value based care and preventative medicine increases.

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