With a 30-day readmission rate that has been consistently below national and statewide averages, once hitting as low as 3.9%, Grande Ronde Hospital and Clinics in northeastern Oregon has assembled various providers in the region to address health issues with patients that lead to healthier lives and less return trips to the hospital.
To understand how the hospital achieves low readmission rates is to know a little bit about the history of the area. Grande Ronde Hospital has been an independent hospital since it was founded in 1907. People who live there are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and help each other, according to Jeremy Davis, MHA, President and CEO of Grande Ronde Hospital.
“We realize here that we have to solve our own problems, which goes back well before my arrival three years ago,” he said.
The hospital’s efforts to reduce readmissions also is not new, but adding 39 new providers in the past three years has certainly helped. The additions give the hospital about 80 providers total, including four pediatricians. This offers patients a vast network of providers to address their health needs, including behavioral, which is becoming an increasingly critical area to address because of COVID-19 pandemic impacts.
“I don’t think you can talk to any health care system CEO in the country who does not see behavioral health as a growing concern,” Davis said. “We are seeing an explosion of people who need behavioral health care, and the effects will linger post pandemic, which is why improving access to this type of care is important to us.”
Addressing behavioral health ties into the hospital’s existing focus on prevention. They have increased their behavioral health providers from five to 12 and are hoping to recruit more.
Grande Ronde Hospital predominately serves Union County, with its beautiful valleys and rugged mountains, while also participating in the Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization which covers 12 rural and frontier counties with a land area that extends over 50,000 square miles of the state. Having local access to a network of primary and specialty providers allows patients to receive same-day treatment with a health issue that a doctor may discover during an annual wellness visit.
“We can treat patients while they are in front of us rather than asking them to make multiple visits,” Davis said.
The hospital’s focus on prevention to avoid readmissions has also been helped by their early adoption of telemedicine. Internet expansion and prevention programs that are accessible on smartphones have been an asset, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic increased people’s willingness to use technology for their health care.
Other important areas the hospital focused on to reduce readmissions include:
- Using an executive quality dashboard that leads to quicker quality improvement adjustments which helps staff improve care for patients.
- Transitioning from three separate electronic medical record (EMR) systems to a single EMR across the care continuum.
- A consistent hospitalist program.
- Implementing multidisciplinary rounds in their medical-surgical unit and intensive care unit.
Sustaining low readmission rates will continue to be a challenge especially with challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Grande Ronde Hospital plans to continue monitoring high utilizers to meet patients’ needs before a readmission occurs. They also continue to develop additional data dashboards and improve their inpatient case management program. Collaboration is also key, Davis said, with other rural health clinics in the region as well as participating in collaboratives like the Health Quality Innovation Network (HQIN) to discover new ways to improve care in their community.
“These are not cars on an assembly line,” Davis said. “These are people who come to us for help with different issues and tailoring our care to them is important. It is our role to remain curious and challenge ourselves to ask the ‘why.’”
About Grande Ronde Hospital:
Grande Ronde Hospital and Clinics is a state and nationally recognized and award-winning not-for-profit health system that includes a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital and 12 outpatient clinics. They are in Union County, Oregon, serving a base population of more than 25,000 residents, as well as providing services for the greater Eastern Oregon region.