Not long after Russell Johnson was brought on board as president and CEO of Lawrence Memorial Hospital last August, hospital staff embarked on a three-month intensive planning process known as Destination Health.
On Wednesday morning, the LMH board of trustees voted unanimously to approve the new strategic plan, which charts the hospital’s course to become a “partner for lifelong health” in the Lawrence community over the next three to seven years.
Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Johnson told his colleagues on the board, is in a unique position among health care providers because it has remained financially strong over the last several years. Still, he later told the Journal-World, “it’s not clear where health care is heading from a policy, payment and delivery system point of view,” and the hospital’s new strategic plan is mindful of that.
“The new administration, President-elect Trump, has reiterated the view of many that we need to do something different with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. What that is, is not known,” Johnson said. “So, I think change is in the air, and we know as an organization that we need to be ready and nimble. And what we’ve tried to do in the strategic plan is to focus on the things that we know will serve us well and serve the community well, irrespective of what that change that might come down the pike is.”
The plan’s “tactical steps,” for the most part, have yet to be mapped out. At the core of the plan, however, are three imperatives: putting people first, working to improve provider alignment, and clinical integration and excellence. Under each category are approximately a dozen tasks, or “strategic milestones,” that LMH leaders hope to complete within the next three to seven years.
People First is broad in its goals, ranging “everywhere from technology to understanding the consumer market better and a lot of things in between,” Johnson said. That includes the creation of a single patient registration system, as opposed to the two systems LMH uses between its hospital and clinic; the development of a long-term solution to improve parking at LMH’s heavily trafficked main campus; the piloting of a check-in and registration kiosk at some LMH practices; and an upcoming review of pricing at the hospital.
With health care shifting toward a more consumer-based model, the hospital realizes that folks may be “shopping around a little bit more,” Johnson said, “and we need to be transparent and engaged with consumers as they try to figure out where they get their health care.”
The plan’s second category, provider alignment, looks at creating an “outstanding practice environment” for the 90 physicians and advanced-practice nurses working within the LMH organization — as well as building clinical service partnerships with other organizations in the region. Part of that is minimizing the time doctors now spend navigating electronic records, improving recruitment and retention by strengthening ties with medical schools and those “on the pathway” to medical careers, and building “a stronger capability” of clinical-information analytics that better serves clinicians and patients.
Clinical integration and excellence, Johnson said, involves the development of a “broad mental health tactical plan,” which would entail internally evaluating the services LMH currently offers and ultimately, better integrating behavioral health services into LMH’s primary care offices.
To this end, hospital leaders want to work with local partners — among them the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, DCCCA and Heartland Community Health Center — to determine what needs exist locally, what role a crisis intervention center might play, and how LMH could help provide an “effective solution around behavioral health,” Johnson said.
Also under the umbrella of clinical integration and excellence are plans to develop a telemedicine system at LMH; “looking more broadly” at the hospital’s ambulatory services and how they might better serve patients; and building upon relationships with community partners at the University of Kansas.
There’s also an effort, Johnson said, to “better understand where this term of ‘population health’ is going,” and what that means for the hospital. Looking ahead, he wants LMH to focus less on treating individual patients for particular ailments, and more on effectively managing and improving the overall health of the population.
Johnson said he believes the new strategic plan will serve LMH well for the next five to seven years. But he also expects that plan to undergo at least a few tweaks as the years go by.
“There almost certainly will be,” Johnson said of potential changes.
“If we stay mindful to what patients and families and consumers are looking for in health care, that’s likely to inform us differently,” he added. “I don’t think we have an ironclad understanding of what that is right now.”