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Published: Tuesday, 3/31/2009

Sharing hospital records urged

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sharing patient medical records among the Toledo area's four hospital systems would help cut health-care costs by eliminating the need to redo tests performed elsewhere, one local hospital leader says.

"There [have] been a couple of attempts to do that," said Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, president of the University of Toledo, which includes the former Medical College of Ohio. "It will require a spirit of unity of purpose."

Cooperating to the point of combining some services - and revenues - instead of always competing would be another way to slash high health-care costs in the Toledo area, said Daniel Wakeman, president and chief executive of St. Luke's Hospital.

Those were two views expressed by four hospital leaders Monday during a health-care forum for the Rotary Club of Toledo. About 200 people gathered in downtown Toledo's Park Inn for the lunchtime meeting where Richard Evens, president and chief executive of St. Anne Mercy Hospital, and Barbara Steele, regional president for ProMedica Health System, also spoke.

In the United States, about 60 percent of hospital revenues come from Medicare and 5 to 10 percent from Medicaid, Mr. Wakeman said.

The federal government demands low margins, and because large commercial insurers also are able to negotiate favorable pricing, small groups and self-payers end up paying higher charges, he explained.

"That's how we try to make up those razor-thin margins," Mr. Wakeman said.

Part of the reason local health-care costs are high is the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic problems, all of which should be addressed through preventive care, ProMedica's Ms. Steele said.

"More focus needs to be put on keeping people well," she said. "More screenings need to be done."

Hospitals, meanwhile, have been slow to adopt measures to control costs and efficiency while improving quality, but progress is being made, said Mr. Evens of Mercy Health Partners.

Ms. Steele and Dr. Jacobs concurred there is some duplication of services in the Toledo area. Consumers need access to health-care services and want convenience, Ms. Steele said.

Yet there's no need for two children's hospitals, four options for open-heart surgery, and other duplications in the area, Dr. Jacobs said.

"These things are never conducive to economies of scale, not to quality, not to cost reductions," said Dr. Jacobs, who added federal stimulus money may be available for local hospitals to coordinate patient records and cut costs.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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