One million dollars a year. That’s the estimated expense that Indiana University Health is planning on covering as it adds yet another county hospital to a network that now includes 15 such facilities serving an area that encompasses everything between Bloomington and Muncie. The newest facility to join that roster of small county healthcare centers is Frankfort Hospital, which was previously under the operational control of St. Vincent.
IU Health’s network system of hospital facilities provides a critical function for many counties in Indiana. In many of those counties, basic healthcare services can be difficult to reach. In some instances, residents in those counties live hours away from the larger cities in the state, which means that they often have little access to the more sophisticated medical care that big city facilities can provide. The IU Health system helps to bring those large city medical benefits to small town settings.
The IU Health Network
Indiana University Health has created a healthcare model that could serve as a template for many other areas of the country. Across the United States, many small-town doctors and clinics have abandoned the countryside, as strict government regulations and financial concerns have made it increasingly difficult for the average small facility to maintain operations in a more rural environment. At one time, there seemed to be a family practitioner or clinic in every town and city in the nation. These days, everything seems to be moving to the larger cities.
As that move toward centralization continues apace, rural communities are becoming healthcare wastelands, where residents have little access to medical care and even less access to more sophisticated hospital services. The IU model attempts to reverse that trend by creating a networked system of small hospitals that utilize a feeder system to manage patient care. This system gives the network the reach it needs to address the healthcare needs of residents in any of the counties serviced by IU Health.
The overriding goal, according to IU Health officials, is to ensure that care remains as close to the local communities as possible. To do that, the health system is designed to maintain local facilities to provide the most immediate and basic care: maternity, emergency, and other common hospital services. Patients who require more care than those basic services can provide are sent to hub hospitals that are nearby those local facilities. When the patient’s needs are more serious, care is provided by the larger hospitals in places like Indianapolis.
Protecting Localized Care
UI Health has received high marks for its effort to provide care to as many local jurisdictions as possible. It even operates so-called critical-access facilities in some rural areas, which help to ensure that care remains local even in those lightly-populated regions. The critical-access designation is for smaller facilities and enables them to receive higher Medicaid and Medicare rates from the government. The addition of this latest facility should help to strengthen that network and bolster care throughout this region of the state.
For its part, IU Health has reportedly declared that it plans to maintain salary levels for the Frankfort Hospital’s current staff. At the same time, it will review the facilities services and its programs to determine where improvements can be made. Officials expect that electronic record-keeping systems will need to be upgraded to better mesh with those IU Health’s network currently utilizes. The total investment is expected to amount to several million dollars.
The agreement also provides a host of new benefits for Frankfort Hospital and the residents of the community. Its addition to the IU Health network will give the hospital access to a wider array of resources and should improve care at every level. Moreover, by becoming part of the University network, Frankfort gains an important relationship with the Indiana University School of Medicine – a link that will provide new access to research doctors, treatments, and other medical advances.
What it Means for You
If you live in any of the areas serviced by the IU Health network, this is all very good news. It provides that network with new resources, new patients, and the potential for more revenue that can be used to continue to broaden the scope of the network’s services. It also provides local residents with access to care that should continue to improve over time, in a way that could help to slow the increased in medical costs. None of this is guaranteed, of course, but we can reasonably expect the network’s previous successes to continue.
As a local resident in need of health care, residents in the area should see little change to the care they receive – at least in the short term. The addition of IU’s hub system for more complex care should prove to be a boon, as patients will no longer need to search for the more advanced care they need. The IU network directs patients to the hub facilities they need for different levels of care, maximizing efficiency across the network and protecting patient care in a way that a less structured approach cannot.
Obviously, many of these changes will take time to bear fruit, as there is much work left to be done. However, given the IU Health network’s success thus far, that fruit should eventually provide wholesale benefits to patients throughout the expansion area as new facility investments and expanded services take effect in the coming years.
At Frank & Kraft, Attorneys at Law, we are always excited to see changes that reap positive benefits for our friends and neighbors in the area. The addition of Frankfort Hospital may not immediately bolster the care that UI Health is able to provide to the state’s residents, but there is good reason to believe that such benefits will come in time. For our part, we’ll continue to watch with interest as we provide residents throughout the area with the estate planning and elder law services they need to properly prepare their end-of-life and legacy strategies. If you’d like to learn more about how our services can benefit you and your loved ones, call today at (317) 684-1100, or contact us at our website.