Some people think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but Illinois Valley Community Hospital (IVCH) – which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014 – is acting more like the top dog at the racetrack. It’s offering healthcare at the local Walmart and at its storefront Care Today, along with planning to demolish older sections of its facility to improve patient access.

“In 2010, we partnered with a company to put in a retail clinic at a local Walmart Supercenter,” CEO Tommy Hobbs recalls. “We thought it was important to create a different, more affordable scope of care at the retail clinic. We also figured that would reduce that level of need from going to our emergency room.”

The hospital also created CareToday, which is an urgent care service. CareToday provides a scope of care between the retail clinic and the ER for such things as the flu or a broken bone. When the retail clinic and urgent care center were introduced, emergency room volume dropped by approximately 5 percent, but it has since recovered. The retail center and Care Today refer patients to higher levels of care when necessary. 

“People need to have greater access to diagnostic services, whether lab draws or diagnostic imaging services,” Hobbs says. “We are convinced people want options.” 

One way under consideration in the hospital’s strategic master facility plan – which will be implemented over the next 10 to 15 years – is to demolish sections of the hospital built in 1939 and 1957. The demolition will provide room for parking and access to services patients can receive on an outpatient basis.

“What it will do is allow us to create access points to our often-utilized and high-volume outpatient services,” Hobbs says. “People really want the quickest access to care. So we will be looking to create access points like that either on campus or at different locations within our community. Our goal is to create the most efficient way of accessing care for our patients.”

EMR in the Cloud

An extensive project at IVCH is updating its electronic medical record (EMR) system and storing it in the cloud. The 56-bed hospital is evaluating whether to update its current EMR system or purchase a different one. It is doing this by testing the new system at some of its 12 physician clinics during 2016. 

“So a year from now, we will know who our long-term vendors will be, and if there is a change, it should be in play by this time next year,” Hobbs says.

The system used at the clinics may be different from the one employed at the hospital, but the goal is to have them compatible with each other. “What we are really looking for is connectivity between systems and usability for providers,” Hobbs says. “We need the EMR to be more intuitive so it is much easier for the physicians to utilize, which is better for patient care.” 

The new software’s usability is being demonstrated by a 72-year-old physician in his own clinic that IVCH recently acquired. The doctor is converting to the software from his old paper system. “He is doing great with the system,” Hobbs says. “It’s just a great, pleasant surprise and is one more reason for me to believe that we are looking at the right system for us. He is doing very well with it. He’s been on it for a month, and it’s gone surprisingly well. He is an amazing person, and if you saw him, his activity is such that you would never know he is 72.”

Rehab and Wound Care

IVCH’s two-story, 15,000-square-foot Center for Physical Rehabilitation and Aquatics (CPRA) has extensive services and 30 pieces of physical therapy equipment not often found at hospitals outside larger metropolitan areas. “The CPRA works closely with the hospital’s joint replacement center to help knee and hip replacement patients get back on their feet,” Hobbs says. “Joint replacement center patients are receiving such great care, we have a blood transfusion rate of zero. The national average is 5 percent. All our metrics on the joint replacement center are really stellar.”

The hospital listened to its physicians when it asked them what services IVCH needed to provide to the community – they requested a wound care center that offered hyperbaric oxygen therapy because their patients were having to travel 60 miles to find this service. Because of IVCH’s small size and decentralized decision-making process, it only took a year for the center to be opened once the first conversation about it was held.

“The wound care center has been very busy from day one,” Hobbs asserts. “We’re continually looking at ways we can increase our capacity there. We brought a great service to the community. We looked into the community to find what services we needed to be providing.”

Illinois Valley Community Hospital also is known for its obstetrics and gynecology department. “We do the most deliveries in the Illinois Valley,” Hobbs maintains. 

Innovation and Expansion

The hospital is dedicated to innovation. “From a healthcare point of view, the employee culture is such that people feel that they can bring forth ideas to make innovations and improvements,” Hobbs emphasizes. “They feel that the main thing is that we are honestly trying to improve.”

Hobbs stresses the importance of the hospital’s medical staff in achieving success. “We just have great primary care doctors,” he insists. “They are just fantastic, and our staff is very caring. In the end, it comes down to people. The facility and the equipment are important, and we do a good job of keeping up on them. But in the end, it comes down to the good people who are providing care, and that is our competitive advantage.”

He sees additional expansion in the future to provide the healthcare the community requires, perhaps at additional satellite locations. “Our goal is to create the most affordable, the highest quality and the easiest-access environment of care,” Hobbs says. “Those can be buzzwords, but we are trying to understand what our consumers want and then provide the highest quality we can.”

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