Mike Hester, the CEO of the Liberty Regional Medical Center, wants to transform health care in Liberty County.
Attendees of the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce’s Progress through People Luncheon, Thursday at the Performing Arts Center in Flemington, listened as Hester discussed several topics, including health-care costs, treatment and efforts to improve the community’s overall health.
The local and state economic impact of LRMC was $60 million in 2014, with 900 full-time jobs created in Georgia, and $39 million generated in household incomes, according to Hester. The hospital also provided $4 million in uncompensated care.
“I feel like, ultimately, we want to expand that,” he said. “We want to have more economic impact. But not just for the sheer benefit of economic impact, we want to create a better health-care delivery system for the communities.”
Current health-care methods are not working, according to Hester.
“If we continue down the path that we’ve been going for health care right now — fee for service where you just kind of go in and you have procedures done — it’s not really managing your health conditions,” he said.
Chronic care conditions are prevalent in the U.S., Hester added.
Maintaining good health is overshadowed by the system’s focus on acute conditions, according to Hester, and higher costs, such as those U.S. consumers face, does not translate into higher life expectancy.
“Visiting your primary-care doctor to maintain your health is vitally important to increasing the life expectancy of a population,” he said.
Hester’s plan is “to grow our primary-care base.”
“We still have a lot of work to do and also to create access points in multiple communities such as Midway, Long County,” he said.
In order to fight chronic conditions, Hester said the health-care industry has to focus on “preventive medicine and annual wellness visits.”
“We’ve got to focus on well care, not sick care,” he said. “We can’t wait till we get so sick we’ve got to go to a hospital, or have a scare and we have to go to the emergency room.”
After the patient receives treatment and leaves the hospital, Hester said LRMC staffers follow up with care so that they are not readmitted.
“A major cost to the U.S. health-care system now is due to readmissions within 30 days, where patients just don’t get the care after they leave the hospital to maintain their health after they leave,” he said.
During a period for questions and comments, a woman in the audience complimented the care her daughter recently received at LRMC’s emergency room.
“And as opposed to other parts of the country, I was pleasantly surprised,” she said.
Dr. Erasme Coly of the LRMC cardiology department also spoke about changes in his department and connecting doctors to their patients.
One of the examples Coly discussed was to make it known that doctors are available to patients daily for follow ups, not just one time a week.
“But it is changing, and I’ve seen it change where, by people knowing that they will come and they will find you, you’re going to be there every day of the week,” he said. “Really, that makes a big difference.”