Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 3, 2014

PCH and CAMC to cooperate for better health care

PRINCETON — Bringing new services to Mercer County patients, sharing experience with another hospital, and introducing future physicians to the county are among the benefits of a new collaboration between Princeton Community Hospital and Charleston Area Medical Center in Kanawha County.

The Princeton Community Hospital Board of Directors recently approved the implementation of a clinical affiliation agreement with CAMC. This announcement came after three years of strategic planning by the board of directors.

Jeffrey E. Lilley, chief operating officer for Princeton Community Hospital, said the process began when PCH facility performed a strategic plan back in 2011.

“During the strategic planning, there was a lot of discussion about how we could move forward, what do we feel like we need to develop, where are our strengths and weaknesses, and things of that nature,” Lilley said. “What we felt what was important for Princeton Community Hospital was to look at developing our clinical affiliation with someone, with a center that will be able to help provide resources in relation to the services we currently provide and want to provide.”

The people at PCH think the hospital has good service lines, “but we think it’s important that we take the ones that we have and further develop them, and then look at other things that may come down the road that we want to provide to the community,” he said.

A clinical affiliation agreement will help both hospitals share knowledge and expertise, Lilley said. For instance, complying with state and federal requirements is becoming more complicated.

“The clinical affiliation is looking at cardiology and oncology, and in addition to that, it’s quality. For example, hospitals today are subject to different regulations than there were five or 10 years ago,” he said.

Hospitals have to participate in quality measures and other requirements mandated by Medicare and other agencies, and implementing these requirements take a lot of resources. For example, CAMC may have five people in its quality and risk area while PCH has one. Personnel at both hospitals can share their experiences and help each other avoid problem areas.

“We believe in an area like that, we’ll be able to tap into some of those resources and be able to get those (programs) implemented more efficiently the first time,” Lilley said. “Many times, they’ve had an opportunity to flesh out the issues and problems with regards to something, and maybe we can tap into that final product.”

In a medical area like cardiology, the affiliation with CAMC could help PCH expand its services.

“We have good cardiologists in our facility, but we want to be able to expand on that service; and we believe that by tapping into CAMC, which is renowned for their heart program, we’ll be able to more quickly develop additional services in our hospital,” Lilley said.

The new affiliation is still in its early stages, so what sort of changes it can bring to PCH has not been determined yet.

“We’re not sure we know exactly how far we are going to take it. I don’t believe there is going to be a point in time where we are going to perform bypass surgery at Princeton Community Hospital,” he said.  “There are certainly areas that we can further develop from a diagnostic standpoint, and some types of surgery like stints and some things. Those are the areas we want to research. There are folks here in our community who do have to travel out, sometimes to Charleston or to Roanoke areas for things we eventually think we’ll be able to provide here.”

Another possibility is to bring CAMC physicians to Mercer County for periodic clinics. A community hospital with limited resources may not want to bring in a full-time sub-specialist who wouldn’t be busy on a full-time basis.

“Many times a facility like this can reach out and have a relationship where that physician from Charleston may come down and do a weekly clinic or something to provide services to those folks,” Lilley said. “We want to expand that and see what are all the different things we want to provide here. Whatever we do, we want to do it the best. We don’t want to get into a situation where we’re trying to do more than we’re capable of, but I think this is a good jumping off point to be able to further develop those service lines.”

The medical affiliation is now focusing on cardiology and oncology, the treatment of cancer. Some chemotherapy and other treatments are offered at PCH, but CAMC is now building a $50 million cancer center, Lilley said.

“We think there are ways with a clinical affiliation with them for oncology, between their medical staff and leadership, and our medical staff and leadership, that we can further develop our services here, and in some ways be able to keep people here as opposed to them driving back and forth from Charleston,” he stated.

Another avenue of cooperation between the hospitals involves education. Developing rural residency rotations at PCH is a future goal.

“What we believe could be beneficial is to become a rural residency site for rotating residents,” Lilley said. “What that means is Princeton Community Hospital has no desire to start its own residency program.”

The Mercer County hospital could benefit from being a place where medical students at CAMC could do their rural residency work. Being a rural residency site could be a way to find new physicians, he said.

“Maybe they grew up here or grew up in Fayetteville, and say, ‘I like it down here. It’s not too far from home,’ and that becomes a real recruiting opportunity for our hospital,” Lilley said.

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