A Vision for the Future: Meeting Tomorrow’s Health Care Needs

A message from Development Director Ashley Lincoln

Ashley Lincoln

Above: Ashley Lincoln, Development Director, and Vision for the Future Campaign Committee members Dr. Lou DiNicola (Co-chair), Linda Chugkowski, and Lincoln Clark (Co-chair) at the site of Gifford’s new Morgan Orchards Senior Living Community.

Since outreach began, a little over 18 months ago, many generous donors have stepped up to pledge $3 million for Gifford’s “Vision for the Future” campaign.

This $5 million capital campaign will support patient room upgrades and a new senior living community, improvements that will help us continue to provide the best possible community health care for years to come.

This impressive early support—from members of the business community, Gifford’s volunteer board of Trustees and Directors, former trustees, medical staff, employees, the Gifford Medical Center Auxiliary—is already having an impact.

The beautiful new Menig building that you’ve watched growing in Randolph Center will open in May as an anchor for the new Morgan Orchards Senior Living Community. Soon after, renovation of the vacated hospital wing begins, creating 25 new single-patient rooms that will improve patient privacy, allow state-of-the-art technology to be brought to the bedside, and create an environment that promotes and speeds the healing process.

Humbled and energized by this wonderful start, I can now officially announce that our “silent phase” ended on Saturday, March 7, with the public launch of our “Vision for the Future” campaign at the medical center’s 109th Annual Meeting of Corporators.

Over the years our community has generously supported Gifford through many evolutions. Moving forward we will need everyone’s help to raise the remaining $2 million by the end of 2015. Our goal of $5 million may seem lofty, but this campaign will help us address unprecedented challenges and opportunities in health care.

Providing quality medical care in the hospital and our nine community health centers is central to our mission. We care for patients locally, eliminating the need to travel—sometimes over mountains, often in treacherous winter conditions. Over the years we have invested in state-of-the-art technology, retained high quality staff, and adopted a hospitalist model that helps us care for sicker patients. Modernizing our patient rooms is a next step in improving patient comfort and providing the best care.

A real community concern is a lack of living and care options for our seniors. As our friends and neighbors age and are looking to downsize, we want them to stay where they have grown up, worked, raised their family, and built relationships. Each individual is a piece of our community quilt: when one leaves, it starts to fray.

Your support for this project will help us sustain our community’s health—and protect our “community quilt”—with the very best care, from birth through old age, for another 110 years.

Space that Speeds the Healing Process

One patient per hospital room is good medicine. Here’s why…

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

individual hospital rooms

Semi-private rooms offer little privacy or space for patients, their families and
hospital staff. Private patient rooms will alleviate the overcrowding that is typical of shared rooms.

The reality of a shared hospital room is that you don’t get to choose your roommate.

“We do our best to match up personalities and scenarios and illnesses and infection issues,” says Alison White, vice president of the hospital division, “but there are things like having a roommate who is a night owl and you like to be in bed by 7:30. If we need a bed and your room happens to be that one empty bed, you get who you get.”

The new reality at Gifford is that every hospital patient will soon have a room of their own as part of a construction project that received its final okay in October 2013. In spring 2015, when 30-bed Menig Extended Care moves to Randolph Center, the hospital will begin converting the vacated wing. The number of rooms for hospital patients will double while the number of hospital beds—25—remains the same, a ratio that guarantees maximum comfort and safety. The renovations are also an opportunity to open up ceilings, replace old systems, and improve energy efficiency.

“When patients are recovering from surgery or from illness, they want what they want,” says Rebecca O’Berry, vice president of operations and the surgical division.

“Sharing a room with somebody else just doesn’t work for most patients. From the surgeon’s point of view, if I’ve just replaced your total hip, the last thing I want is for you to be in a room with someone who might be brewing an infection.”

White names several other factors, besides the risk of infection, that have helped make private rooms the standard in hospitals today. Among them:

Faster healing: Studies show that patients who are in private rooms need less pain medication because they’re in a more soothing environment. If your roommate has IV pumps that are going off, or the nurse has to check your neighbor every one or two hours—which is very common—the lights go on, the blood pressure machine goes off, the nurse has to speak with the person in the bed next to you. With private rooms, all that is removed.

Ease of movement: Our rooms were built before the current technology existed. IV poles didn’t exist. We now have people with two or three pumps. With today’s technology there’s no room to move around. When you have two of everything—two chairs, two overbed tables, two wastebaskets—it creates an obstacle course.

Better doctor-patient communication: As professionals, we don’t always get the whole story because the patient doesn’t want to be overheard by his neighbor.

Patient satisfaction: Larger rooms, each with a bathroom, will give patients additional privacy and enhance the patient experience. It’s a win-win for everybody.

A Message from Board Chair Gus Meyer

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

Gifford Board Chair Gus Meyer

Board Chair Gus Meyer

What a momentous year it’s been! Things we had been planning for years came to fruition in 2014. Even as these fundamental changes in our organization have taken place, Gifford has maintained its remarkable fiscal stability and continued our steady growth in the proficiency, professionalism, and breadth of service that we provide.

In 2015, we anticipate completion of the nursing home, renovation of the space that Menig now occupies, expansion of mental health and dental services associated with the FQHC, and full implementation of the EMR, along with ongoing commitment to fiscal responsibility and improvement in quality of care.

These accomplishments are all the more amazing because they have been achieved in a very uncertain health care environment. While Governor Shumlin has suspended planning for single payer health care, many other aspects of health care reform continue. For example, accountable care organizations are now in development, with the goal of changing from fee-for-service to covered lives reimbursement.

How these changes get implemented will have profound impact on how medical decisions are made, as well as how and where care is delivered. In the coming year, as we pursue the internal strands mentioned above, we will also maintain our active involvement in the health care reform planning process, working to ensure that Gifford’s patients continue to have the highest quality, locally provided health care possible.

Going Digital

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

converting to electronic medical recordsFlashback to March 2014. Gifford’s switch to electronic medical records, the industry standard, has been in the works for a couple of years. The challenge: To complete the transition before spring 2015, when government penalties are due to kick in. For the shift to occur, providers—doctors and other medical professionals—will have to learn to use the system. This learning will be put to the test in front of patients. A prevailing sentiment: “I was really hoping I’d retire before we got around to doing this.”

“EMR came out of the Affordable Care Act as a sort of a mandate for us,” says Gifford Administrator Joe Woodin. “We had some electronic files and file management in the past, as many hospitals do, but now there’s a clear mandate of completing that loop, and the government has given us economic incentives to do it, as well as economic penalties if we don’t. So like every other hospital in the country, we’ve been passionately working on this for a couple of years.”

When we think of doctors, we think of clipboards and script pads and cheap ballpoint pens. We think of scrawly handwriting. With the shift to EMR, doctors who were used to scribbling notes on charts and sending them to medical transcriptionists were being asked to give up those tools and plug in the data electronically. VP of Finance Jeff Hebert likens the task to mastering Excel when you’ve been doing spreadsheets by hand for years.

“To add more complexity,” says Hebert, “the product was a brand-new one for our hospital vendor; they redesigned it and we were the first to be going live with it. So in addition to my Excel analogy going on with our providers, CPSI was introducing us to a product that they weren’t that familiar with because they had just created it.” Across the health-care system, a piecemeal electronic infrastructure that lacks standardization—unlike, say, the banking system—did nothing to make the task easier.

By March, pediatrics was trained and ready to go. The first wave of physicians began walking into exam rooms hugging their new laptops. Office visits slowed.

Gifford's electronic medical records

“A lot of organizations have found that transitioning to EMR affects their productivity and some of their morale,” says Woodin. “It asks a lot of the providers and the patients. The challenge would be equivalent to going metric or if you were asked to speak a different language.”

Over the summer, primary care joined the campaign. Neurology, surgery, and other specialists stepped up in the fall.

Meanwhile, providers and patients were starting to experience the benefits of the new system.

“Electronic medical records will allow our organization to be fully integrated across the continuum of care, from inpatient to outpatient to pharmacy—the whole thing. And it’s going to allow us to better care for you. If you walk into the ER and you’re a patient in our Bethel clinic, the ER can pull up your record from this morning—it’s already there,” says Rebecca O’Berry, vice president of operations and the surgical division.

“So if you’re a poor historian—meaning, for instance, that you can’t remember what pills you take or whether you’ve had your gall bladder out—or you just know that you saw somebody today and you still don’t feel well, they can pull it up, whereas before we had nothing. If it’s seven o’clock at night, you can’t call Bethel and say, ‘Hey, I need you to pull this record and read to me what happened.’ There’s no delay, no lag time waiting for dictation. For somebody who has had care and needs more care within the next day or two of their last visit, everything’s there, and that’s the beauty of it.”

By the end of the year, providers were settling into their new routine and at least some of the kinks had been worked out of the new system.

“We’ve done a good job,” said Woodin. “We’re working through it. There are always improvements to be made.”

Recognizing Employee Commitment

Annual Employee Awards

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

Members of our Gifford family were recognized at the Employee Awards Banquet on October 18 at Vermont Technical College for their years of service. (Employees are recognized in five-year increments.)

Congratulations to these individuals and thank you to all for your dedication and service.

annual Gifford employee awards

5 YEARS
Diane Alves
Teresa Bradley
Amy Chiriatti
Eric Christensen
James Currie
Tammy Dempsey
Lyle Farnham
David Gehlbach
Tammy Gerdes
Marjorie Gewirz
Thom Goodwin
Lindsay Haupt
Cathy Jacques
Thomas Maylin
Megan McKinstry
Loretta Miller
Michael Minchin
Susan Moore
Megan O’Brien
Martha Palmer
Heather Pejouhy
Rella Rice
Matthew Shangraw
Paul Smith
Meghan Sperry
Debra Stender
Thomas Young

10 YEARS
Lori Barrett
Jamie Cushman
Amy Danley-White
Jennifer Davis
Nancy Davoll
Cynthia Legacy
Patricia Manning
Rhonda Schumann
Rebecca Jo Ward
Lisa Young

15 YEARS
Kathrine Benson
Sadie Lyford
Shelley McDonald
Kathleen Paglia
Dessa Rogers
David Sanville
Linda Sprague
Joseph Woodin
Carol Young

20 YEARS
Kenneth Borie
Louis DiNicola
Milton Fowler
Betsy Hannah
Jean Keyes
Cheryl McRae
David Pattison

25 YEARS
Dawn Beriau
Karin Olson
Renee Pedersen
Kathi Pratt

40 YEARS
Judith Santamore

Preparing and Adapting to a Changing Health-Care Landscape

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

building for the future with Gifford Medical Center

A message from Administrator Joe Woodin

FISCAL YEAR 2014 was a transformative one for Gifford as several long-term initiatives came to fruition—efforts that will not only benefit patients but also position Gifford well for the future in an era of health-care reform.

In November 2013, a very excited Senator Bernie Sanders called to say that Gifford had been designated a Federally Qualified Health Center. What we qualified for were federal funds that provide greater access to primary care—including dental and mental-health services—for Medicaid patients and the uninsured. By July, after a lot of hard work by our administrative team, we were ready to start drawing on those funds.

The Gifford Retirement Community now under construction in Randolph Center passed its final regulatory hurdle a month before the senator’s phone call, and ground was broken in the spring. Add to these developments the hospital’s conversion to single-patient rooms and Gifford’s transition to electronic medical records and you can see why we’ve titled this report “Building for the Future.” In the following pages, we discuss the new developments and relate them to the changing health-care landscape.

Last but not least, Gifford “made budget” for the fifteenth year in a row, a feat not replicated by any other hospital in Vermont. Achieving its state-approved operating margin is an indicator of Gifford’s health as a medical center, community organization, and employer, and credit for this achievement goes to the entire staff.

Primary Care Gets a Boost

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

primary care in Randolph VT

Family nurse practitioner Christina Harlow shares a laugh with Mary Williams of Randolph Center during a recent visit.

A family unable to afford dental care. An uninsured mother-to-be. A loved one suffering from depression. These are some of the people who will be helped by Gifford’s new status as a Federally Qualified Health Center.

The memo to staff was dated November 7, 2013, and sprinkled with exclamation points. It came from administrator Joseph Woodin and was entitled “A Must Read!” The message: Gifford had just been named a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC)—an event that Woodin characterized as “some of the biggest news I have ever shared with staff since working at Gifford!”

Gifford's primary care

Christina Harlow consults with family medicine physician Dr. Marcus Coxon.

The FQHC designation is a coveted one, opening the gate to a stream of federal dollars for primary care. The funding comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the primary federal agency for improving access to health-care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable. Of particular interest to Gifford: support for dental care and mental health services for Medicaid patients and the uninsured.

“This assistance from the federal government allows us to develop programs for dentistry, psychiatry, and mental health that are hugely important for the community,” says Medical Director of the Hospital and Medicine Divisions Dr. Martin Johns. “It also allows us to place a bigger focus on primary care. It means we can take better care of our Medicaid patients, offering them services that we couldn’t before because of finances, and that’s huge.

“We’re finding out almost weekly that we can offer things to patients that we didn’t even know about, let alone have the capacity to apply for. The designation was designed to help small groups of physicians serving in rural communities. Our mission has always been that.” Gifford's mission To qualify for FQHC status, a community health center must be open to all, regardless of ability to pay. It must offer a sliding fee scale with discounts based on patient family size and income in accordance with federal poverty guidelines. The federal money is intended to offset these obligations.

Over the past year, Gifford has laid the groundwork necessary to begin drawing on those funds. Among the steps: conducting a search for a psychiatrist to join the medical staff, working out agreements with area dentists to provide care to Medicaid patients, and completing a transition to electronic medical records.

“HRSA is really concerned that they make these health centers as feasible as possible,” says VP of Finance Jeff Hebert, “so there’s a lot of grant opportunity that impacts our financial stability. We get support every year as long as we keep up with the requirements.

“Probably the biggest benefit is that we get bigger reimbursement for our Medicaid patients. Reimbursement is cost-based, and not fee-based, so instead of paying a percentage of the fee for x, y, and z, the government looks at how much it costs to provide those services. It’s a better reimbursement methodology for Medicaid.” Other perks of the designation are: insurance coverage for primary care physicians and relief from staggering medical-school debt, a powerful recruitment incentive.

IF IT WALKS LIKE A DUCK

Dr. Marcus Coxon

The new FQHC designation allows primary care physicians like Dr. Marcus Coxon (left) to offer Gifford patients increased access to mental and dental health services.

The Gifford model is an unusual one: a community health center with satellite clinics and a small hospital at its hub. As such, it provides both primary and critical care to a rural population. It would thus seem eligible for both FQHC funding and the benefits it receives as a Critical Access Hospital, a designation conferred in 2001. But would the feds see it that way?

The FQHC “duck test” was a laborious application process that involved many hospital departments and years of preparation, followed by months of waiting. With acceptance, Gifford the health center became the “parent” of Gifford the hospital—one of only three FQHC/CAHs in the country.

“Our primary-care services—which include internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics, and ob-gyn—are all part of that community health center parent,” explains Woodin.

“The concurrent designation is tremendous for us,” says Johns. “It enables us to provide the most possible benefit to the community while being a small hospital, and it protects us from a lot of the changes going around the state and the region with regard to accountable care: As an FQHC, we cannot be purchased by or absorbed by a larger organization.”

“I look at health-care reform as being primary-care focused,” says Hebert. “It’s that primary-care provider who keeps you healthy and works with you to make sure you as a patient are getting what you need. If you’re prompting that patient to come in for a physical, and to develop healthy behaviors, you’re going to keep that patient a lot healthier at a manageable level than a model that doesn’t focus on primary care. I use myself as an example of what not to do: I only go to a health-care provider when I get to the point when I’m ready to go into the hospital and that’s an extremely expensive proposition. It’s not as efficient, and you as a patient aren’t as satisfied because you’re looking at a long recovery time. By making Gifford Health Care the parent of our organization, we’ve set ourselves up for the future, and I feel we’re in a really good place.”

After eight months of administrative work, Gifford was ready to start drawing on its new funds. The first bill went out in July. “It’s probably going to take most of 2015 to really understand all the levers and dynamics,” says Woodin.

“My thanks and appreciation go out to the staff behind the scenes who made this happen. It was a huge amount of work, and yet strategically, it positions us well, given health-care reform both in the state of Vermont and nationally. It helps us to have the right focus again around primary care, taking care of Medicaid and the uninsured, and looking to build from there.”

Podiatry care when you need it most

Emily Wheeler certainly didn’t want an injury so late in her pregnancy but was glad for the care she received

This article was published in Gifford’s Fall 2014 Update Community Newsletter.

Dr. Samantha HarrisEight months into her pregnancy, Emily Wheeler of Corinth didn’t expect to need a podiatrist.

But the unlikely happened. The day after her baby shower on a routine walk out her front door, she fell down her steps. Her first concern was for her baby and she rushed to Gifford’s Birthing Center for monitoring. Only after determining that her baby was fine did she go upstairs to the Emergency Department to have what she suspected was a broken ankle X-rayed.

She followed up with Gifford podiatrist Dr. Samantha Harris of the Gifford Health Center at Berlin. Dr. Harris confirmed Emily’s worry. Her ankle was fractured. She spent the last weeks of her pregnancy in an air cast and wheelchair.

Emily had never heard of Dr. Harris before. She is new to Gifford, but Emily was familiar with the Berlin health center. She was already going there for her prenatal care with Gifford’s midwives. Now she had another reason to go.

“She was really quick with the diagnosis and quick to give treatment,” says Emily, praising her new podiatrist. “The office there has been really great and Dr. Harris has been available.”

Emily delivered a healthy, 10-pound baby boy in August. Days later she headed back to Gifford Health Center at Berlin to get back on her feet once again and – now for a third reason – to have Owen’s first check-up.

About the health center
The Gifford Health Center at Berlin, located off Airport Road, offers a full spectrum of care, including family and internal medicine, help with infectious diseases, midwifery, neurology, orthopedics, urology, and podiatry.

About Dr. Harris
Dr. Harris joined Gifford in July from a practice in her native Tennessee. She got her start in medicine as a physical therapist and went on to attend Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine in Independence, Ohio. Her residency in podiatric medicine and surgery at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo followed.

A desire to start farming and produce maple syrup brought her to Vermont, and she found the right fit at Gifford, which is home to four podiatric surgeons working out of Gifford clinics in Randolph, Sharon, and Berlin.

Putting locals to work in Randolph Center

Senior living community progressing

This article was published in Gifford’s Fall 2014 Update Community Newsletter.

Randolph senior living community

When Gifford conceptualized and received all necessary permits to construct a senior living facility in Randolph Center, it was certain that local people would benefit. The region’s seniors would have a local place for nursing home care, independent living, and one day assisted living.

What wasn’t necessarily known when the project went out to bid in the spring, however, was how many other locals might benefit.

Randolph senior living communityThe crew at W.B. Rogers Inc. is a prime example. The local excavation contractor bid for and won the job to do the site work for the first phase of the project.

The project is the biggest in manager Geoff Gilman’s time with the family business, even trumping the eight miles of Bethel roads the company rebuilt immediately following Tropical Storm Irene.

W.B. Rogers Inc. got its start more than 40 years ago in 1968. Today, three generations work with the company, along with plenty of others. With 16 employees, W.B. Rogers brought on extra staff to work on Gifford’s project, which began in May. “We’ve employed quite a few more people,” Gilman said.

“Everybody who works for us lives in Randolph or a surrounding town, so it’s really keeping the income right here in this area,” added Gilman, whose father Charlie owns the business.

As community members pass by the site on Route 66 in Randolph Center, many have been surprised by the amount of equipment on site. Others have been surprised it’s locally owned. W.B. Rogers, which does jobs from the very small to the very large, owns about two dozen pieces of equipment, from excavators to loaders to backhoes to bulldozers to dump trucks.

Randolph senior living communityWith equipment stored in Randolph and an office in Bethel, Gilman notes a local contractor is also the contractor you know. He’s readily available, has built a reputation through his previous work at Gifford and many other local projects, and works hard to do a good job for his community.

“I take pride in my work. I like to see everything look nice. I treat these jobs like they are my own,” Gilman said.

After a long summer in the sun, he’ll also be glad to be done with it. “I was glad to get it. I’ll be glad to finish it,” he said.

W.B. Rogers will be on-site on the property until the ground freezes, finishing some grading and building an access road and then return in the spring for final grading and seeding.

The first phase of the project, which is the reconstruction of Gifford’s 30-bed Menig Extended Care Facility nursing home on the site, is expected to be done by May 2015.

The project began this May. Since then, water and sewer lines, drainage pipes, fire hydrants, light pole bases, and power have all gone in. Concrete has been placed, walls have gone up, and the site is getting ready for a winter of interior work.

Once complete, nursing home residents will move from their current home at Gifford to the new nursing home. The current facility will then be renovated into new industry-standard private inpatient rooms.

Later phases of the senior living community call for first 40 independent living units and then more independent living units and assisted living units to follow.

For Gifford, employing local contractors like W.B. Rogers means supporting not just seniors but the local workforce.

“Gifford is successful when our community is successful. It’s a partnership, and we do try very hard to be a good community partner,” said Gifford Director of Facilities Doug Pfohl.

Giving

This article was published in Gifford’s Fall 2014 Update Community Newsletter.

Gifford givingEach year, we ask our friends to consider supporting Gifford. As a nonprofit community hospital, Gifford truly appreciates your gifts. With your support, we are able to provide high quality patient experiences.

But did you know there are other ways to support the hospital that could be more beneficial for you? Gifford has planned giving options that help the medical center while also providing for your financial future. Including Gifford in your will, for example, means you’re leaving a lasting legacy. A charitable gift annuity means you will receive a fixed income for life.

Gifford is a stable, growing organization with a strong infrastructure; in other words, we’re a safe investment. When it comes to charitable gift annuities, the hospital has set aside assets to secure our promise to pay the annuity, and your return is not affected by market volatility.

There are many ways to invest in your community medical center. Please consult with your financial advisor and interested family members about these options before making a gift. It would be my pleasure to provide you more details with absolutely no obligation from you. Please call me at 728-2380 to begin the discussion.

It’s our job here at Gifford to provide the best care possible to patients. It’s my job to help support that outstanding care by connecting community members like you with Gifford. For many, it will be a friendship of shared values and financial security that will last for years to come.

I look forward to beginning that friendship with you.

~ Ashley Lincoln, Director of Development