Tahoe Forest CEO: Rapid health care changes pose unique challenges
TRUCKEE, Calif. — With 2016 being an election year, the Sierra Sun is devoting time each week to conduct interviews with officials who work for the many public districts and government agencies representing Truckee and North Lake Tahoe.
This week, we feature a Q-and-A with Tahoe Forest Hospital District CEO Harry Weis.
Sierra Sun: How would you describe the state of the district today?
Weis: I would describe our district as being very strong financially and clinically and becoming prepared for the innovations that are coming in health care. … Our finances were very strong at June 30, 2015, with a strong net income. I believe it was in the $2.5 million dollar range. … We’ve also just recently gone through a clean external audit, and our fiscal performance this fiscal year through the first eight months through February 29, 2016, is very strong, as well. We’re north of $8 million as of (that) eight month period.
Additionally, for probably eight or 10 years, we’ve been going through some Measure C important bond projects, important clinical projects, and we believe that those will be pretty well wrapped up this year. … (Those have) really touched our emergency department, touched our important cancer program, our obstetrics, our long-term care, orthopedics and so forth. It’s just a tremendous assistance to us in clinical care areas.
Additionally, as we talk about the state of the district today, just during my first 90 days, we have really refreshed our mission statement, our vision statement and our values as well. Our mission now … it really reflects thoughtfully on the proactive model of health pursuit — that’s a key adage to health care in the future. Whereas the old model of health care was kind of a reactive model of health care; the new model is a proactive model.
Sun: What’s the top one or two biggest challenges the district faces in 2016?
Weis: It is kind of hard to limit just to one or two main challenges. In health care we are in the fastest change era in health care probably versus anything in the last 100 years in health care, and health care, as an industry, is the largest single component of our economy. I would respectably offer, I believe it is changing faster and with greater complexity than probably almost any other industry out there, and there’s very fast pace changes in other industries, as well. That’s just a little bit of the backdrop.
One small part (is) the old model of health care was a reactive model of health care, where there was just a very short attention span to a person’s illness or injury. They didn’t take a holistic view of the patient. How can I (then) really conclude all of your health status issues and help you move in a trajectory of ever improving your health holistically? The (new proactive) notion (is) that it would be great if we could keep more patients out of the emergency room and keep them away from needing inpatient hospital admissions, as well. (It’s) just a totally different focus. …
We are really transforming the delivery of care that we provide due to the Affordable Care Act that came out a few years ago. More over, we’re making sure that our model of care will be successful and on point whether the Affordable Care Act stays, whether it goes to version two, three or four of the Affordable Care Act, or even if it were to be repealed. (Therefore) we’re looking at developing very quickly and accurately a model of care that is proactive, where we can thrive with or without the Affordable Care mandates, which have been many.
In this context, just a couple of very, very important things that are challenges that we are working on — one is our physician service line. Physicians are the key partner for us, and making sure that we have truly developed and aligned physician team that can help us provide that proactive health care. A companion tool for them and all of our clinicians is a modern, appropriate electronic medical record for all of them to use, as well. Successfully developing that physician service line and our electronic medical record and the real transformation we’re doing for the Affordable Care Act, those are probably at least three of the big items that are coming on.
Sun: As we embark on the second half of the decade, what improvements do you want to see with the district by 2020?
Weis: We really have many things that we can focus in on, but we have really developed six critical forward looking strategies to really transform Tahoe Forest Health System and make it much more sustainable and much more on point, as we seek to honor our patients with loving, high skilled care. No. 1 on those six forward looking strategies is our physician service line makeover, which is the effort (where) … we are all working as one cohesive team on proactive health care in the various communities that we serve. Our district serves here in California and Placer County, but we also have a small facility in Incline Village, too.
No. 2 is our electronic health record. Having a very thoughtful single platform that can extend across all in- and outpatient aspects of our health care. No. 3 is a critical master plan that really looks at all aspects of clinical spaces, equipment, and parking for our clinical team and our overhead departments that provide care. As all these changes occur, do we have the clinical and other operational space and equipment to provide the great care and parking for our patients, as well? That’s a huge issue for here, throughout our district and also at Incline Village.
The next area that really will be transformative for our residents is what we call care coordination and patient navigation. Care coordination really deals with some of our most ill residents in our community, and really honoring them with proactive health care to keep them at as high quality of life status as possible. We work very closely with our physicians and team members in the community to help these individuals enjoy quality of life that maybe they hadn’t previously been able to achieve on a steady basis. Part B is that any person in our community, whether they are a resident or a visitor, if they have a desire to touch our system for any injury or illness, we are developing during this calendar year, patient care navigators that can help them move efficiently through our system. …
Another point is we call it our ‘just do it’ area of categories, and that’s really continuing to honor our community by improving our quality of care, our patients’ satisfaction — that’s very important — and our financial performance.
Lastly, and certainly not least, is really developing a strong connection with our community built on trust that we are a highly ethical, humble, highly skilled health care team that loves our community. Our goal is to build great trust with our community. … That they know that our mission unequivocally looks out for their interest and that it’s not about us; it’s about them and all we do.
As we execute well on these six forward looking strategies, we believe that we will really be able to honor our community, be able to fulfill our vision and mission better, (and) certainly really make a difference in the health of our community. At a minimum we want to achieve these six.
Sun: How does the district balance the needs of locals, second homeowners and visitors when delivering service?
Weis: We really focus in on all of our residents — whether they are here full time or part time. A health care system is a very precious community asset, and we work as good stewards to make sure that it’s available with excellence for everyone. The issue of whether they are here full time or part time probably barely arises unless we do an additional step of helping them then connect effectively to their provider in another city. … In this district, we really have to earn the desire of the public to choose us. They have many choices out there. People get to choose where they go, and I believe that is appropriate. We have to earn the desire of them to want to choose us and use us.
Sun: In this modern era of smartphones and social media how is the district changing how it communicates important information to the community?
Weis: We are very busy on a lot of fronts there. For example, our monthly board meetings are live-streamed on Channel 6, and we do archive them also on TTCTV and also on our website, tfhd.com. … We also have a website across our entire district or system, and that reaches out and documents what we do from Incline Village all the way here to Truckee. It’s optimized; smartphones can actively participate on our website. We have significant (user-friendly) improvements to that website that are underway and will be completed this year.
We also use print. We use online marketing, radio advertising and also, social media outreach. We’re on Facebook, Twitter and probably many other venues out there. (We) have a pretty heavy presence on Facebook. … Another venue that we use, and we’ve done this for a few years now, we have a magazine that goes out to the community about three (editions) a year. …
We’ve also just started tapping a new (regular) TV show called Mountain Health Today, which will be available in the not too distant future on Channel 6 TTCTV and the Tahoe Forest Hospital District website. We hope to use that quite a number of times this year and in a future year or two to really talk about macro issues as well as many local issues that pertain to health care.