Improving access to primary care among Lawrence Memorial Hospital's top priorities

Lawrence Memorial Hospital, 325 Maine.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital, 325 Maine.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s board met Wednesday morning to set its priorities for the next five years, and access to primary care emerged at the top of the list.

President and CEO Gene Meyer said better access doesn’t just mean recruiting more doctors, but extending hours of service beyond the typical workday especially for commuters. He said LMH also will look at how nurse practitioners and physician assistants can be integrated into practices to serve more people.

He said reports have estimated that about 15,000 more Douglas County residents may gain access to some form of health insurance when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in 2014.

“We are going to have to provide access to those people,” Meyer said during an interview in his office after the board's three-hour strategic planning session. If not, people will be forced to look elsewhere.

“Primary care isn’t just important because it provides access to community members who need it, but selfishly, active primary care fuels activities and programs here at the hospital,” he said. Those activities would include surgeries and use of its oncology and cardiology services.

Meyer said the board agreed to help primary care practices, whether they are affiliated with the hospital or not, when possible. That could mean employing staff, buying a building or help with recruiting.

Gene Meyer

Gene Meyer by Belinda Rehmer

Meyer said the board’s other two priorities are better collaboration with neighboring hospitals and also better collaboration with health agencies in the Lawrence community.

LMH keeps a close eye on its competition in Topeka and Kansas City, and Meyer said the board discussed whether it should consider a merger among other possibilities. The board decided it was best for LMH to remain an independent, nonprofit hospital and to collaborate with its neighboring hospitals like it does now. If LMH can’t provide services, it refers patients to a number of hospitals that can.

“We decided LMH is better served by being the Switzerland of all hospitals, which means friends with everybody,” Meyer said.

Meanwhile, LMH also wants to improve collaboration with community health agencies like Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, Heartland Community Health Center, and Visiting Nurses Association.

“We want to work with our partners to minimize duplication and to maximum resources and really coordinate care that’s delivered locally,” Meyer said.

Tagged: primary care, Lawrence Memorial Hospital

Comments

Marilyn Hull 1 year, 11 months ago

One helpful option would be increasing the state's capacity to train physicians assistants. Right now there is only one program in the state--at Wichita State--and it only admits a tiny fraction of applicants.

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Karrey Britt 1 year, 11 months ago

One of the hospital's goals is creating partnerships with hospitals and schools and Gene Meyer mentioned maybe seeking to collaborate with KU Med in addressing primary care.

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