The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.
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!”
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.” 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
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.”
President Joseph Woodin and CFO Jeff Hebert announce via video that Gifford closed the books with a 3.2% margin for the 2014 fiscal year.
In a feat that has not been replicated by any other hospital in Vermont, Gifford Medical Center announced that it has achieved its state-approved operating margin for the 15th straight year, by managing its expenses and the budget process.
In a “reality TV” video announcement sent to staff on Monday, November 3, President Joseph Woodin and CFO Jeff Hebert announced what auditors have confirmed – Gifford closed the books with a 3.2% margin for the 2014 fiscal year.
“This is all thanks to the hard work and dedication of our staff,” said Woodin. “Without their diligent focus, always trying to manage quality and costs, we would not be able to have accomplished this.”
An operating margin is the money the medical center makes above expenses – needed to reinvest in programs, staff and facilities. Sixteen years ago, Gifford ended the fiscal year with a negative 16% margin ($2.9 million loss), after having lost money 4 out of 5 years. At that time, the future of the hospital was uncertain, with some state officials even asking if the hospital should be closed.
Today, Gifford is known as one of the most successful and innovative hospital and health care organizations in New England. They are designated a CAH (Critical Access Hospital), as well as an FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center); one of only three in the nation to carry that dual designation. They also operate a nursing home (Menig) that is rated one of the top 1% in U.S., and are currently constructing the first phase of a five-phase senior living community in Randolph Center, VT.
Consistently achieving the operating margin can be an indicator of an organization’s success. Despite record shortfalls in revenue for Vermont hospitals, including Gifford, Woodin noted the medical center was able to make up for revenue shortfalls through managing expenses and due to support from federal programs like 340B, a drug pricing program that in part generates revenue when Gifford patients fill non-generic, non-narcotic prescriptions at participating pharmacies.
“This news is exciting for Gifford and for the community,” said Woodin. “It is an indicator of Gifford’s health as a medical center, community organization, and employer. Primarily it means we’re stable, and we’re able to provide consistent care and services without facing cuts and uncertainty.”
The achievement is especially remarkable within the current economic climate and amid so many changes in health care, hospital officials also noted.
The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.
Gifford’s is a story steeped in tradition, and one that has only grown more positive in recent years. As director of fund-raising efforts, telling that story of a small hospital making it and improving year after year despite the odds is such a privilege.
In 2013, that is even more true. We’re celebrating another year of major achievements, including “making” budget, earning Federally Qualified Health Center status allowing us to soon provide enhanced primary care to the community and receiving all approvals needed to move forward with the construction of a Senior Living Community in Randolph Center and private inpatient rooms at Gifford.
In 2014, moving forward on our Senior Living Community and private patient rooms will become a major focus for the Development Office, Development Committee and our new Campaign Steering Committee.
These committees are comprised of hardworking volunteers. The project has already generated much excitement from both donors and from community members hoping to one day make this community home.
Over time, the Senior Living Community will include the Menig Extended Care Facility nursing home, independent living units and assisted living units. This vision allows our friends and neighbors to age in place rather than leaving their community for similar housing.
Constructing the nursing home, building infrastructure for the entire community and creating private inpatient rooms, however, will take community support. This support is already being demonstrated among the Gifford community, including our Auxiliary, Board and Medical Staff, and soon will be an exciting public campaign where community members can help make this project a reality through financial investments.
Ours is a community that supports its hospital and patients. We continue to have remarkable success each year with our annual fund and once again we have raised a record amount in support of end-of-life care through the Last Mile Ride – our charity motorcycle ride held each year on the third Saturday in August. Participants, volunteers and local business sponsors make this event possible and so positive for our hospital and community. We look forward to continuing and growing this (now) Randolph tradition in 2014.
As always, there are many ways to support Gifford – as a donor, as a patient, as an employee and as a volunteer both at the medical center and through the Auxiliary. I welcome your inquiries on how you can become involved in our story of success and in bettering patients’ lives.
Gifford Medical Center in Randolph has been named among the nation’s top 100 performing Critical Access Hospitals by iVantage Health Analytics.
iVantage has developed what it calls a Hospital Strength INDEX and for 2014 measured 1,246 Critical Access Hospitals across the nation on 66 different performance metrics, including quality, patient outcomes and satisfaction, affordability, population health and hospital financial strength.
After weighing all of those factors, Gifford for 2014 has been named among the Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals in the nation – meaning it does well in a variety of areas as compared to its peers.
“Rural health care …. plays a vital role for communities across America, serving nearly 80 million people. The services provided in rural America are similar to those needed in any major metropolitan area, yet the volumes and economic resources provide little economies of scale, making for little benefit from scale. These Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals exhibit a focused concern for their community benefits and needs, regardless of scale, reimbursement and people’s ability to pay,” said John Morrow, executive vice president of iVantage.
Gifford was founded in 1903 and is part of Vermont’s non-profit health system. A 25-bed hospital in Randolph, it has eight outlying health centers meeting community members’ health needs where they live and work.
For the last 14 consecutive years, Gifford has met its state-approved budget and operating margin – a unique feat amid challenging economic times. At the same time, Gifford has embraced community health improvement initiatives that benefit patients, such the Vermont Blueprint for Health and by achieving Federally Qualified Health Center status.
A Critical Access Hospital is a hospital certified to receive cost-based reimbursement from Medicare. This program is intended to reduce hospital closures in rural areas, promotes a process for improving rural health care and focuses on community needs. Federally Qualified Health Centers are also nationally designated, but rather than inpatient care support outpatient primary care, including mental and dental health.
“What is interesting about this evaluation is that it looks at so many different indicators, all publicly available data, and combines them into a comprehensive evaluation. This year factors also grew to include the health of our community – a vital area where Gifford as a Critical Access Hospital and a Federally Qualified Health Center excels,” said Ashley Lincoln, Gifford director of development and public relations.
“These findings tell our community that we not only have a strong, high-quality local health care provider but that Gifford is well positioned for health care reform,” Lincoln added.
Springfield and Copley hospitals in Vermont also made the list.
Pennsylvania native Amanda Hepler knew from a young age that she would become a doctor.
“Pretty much from when I was very little, I wanted to be a doctor,” says Hepler, whose mother was a radiology technologist and often the go-to person for medical questions.
At Grove City College in Pennsylvania, Hepler studied molecular biology. Medical school at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia followed. Her residency in family medicine was at Latrobe Family Medicine Residency, also in Pennsylvania.
When it came time to start work, Dr. Hepler looked for a rural practice and found it at Rangeley Family Medicine in a community of 1,200 in Maine. There for four years, Dr. Hepler was the lone physician, caring for all ages, doing home visits and addressing emergencies as they arose.
From Maine, Dr. Hepler went to work at Cheshire Medical Center, part of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene, in New Hampshire. The role meant working in a multi-physician practice, overseeing nurse practitioners and physician assistants, caring for patients in a skilled nursing facility and working to meet quality goals as part of an Accountable Care Organization. It lacked one thing, however: rural roots.
It’s Dr. Hepler’s passion to care for whole families.
“I always pictured myself working in a rural area,” Dr. Hepler said. “Family medicine is called family medicine because you’re supposed to be taking care of a whole family. You can learn a lot more about a person from first-hand experience with a family. You have a true family history.”
Dr. Hepler is now rediscovering her passion for rural medicine as the latest member of the Chelsea Health Center team.
The rural clinic is part of Gifford Health Care and was recently named a Federally Qualified Health Center by the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“It just felt right,” says Dr. Hepler of joining the Chelsea team, which includes physician assistant and Chelsea native Rebecca Savidge and physician assistant Starr Strong, a veteran Chelsea caregiver who will soon retire.
Dr. Hepler is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and a member of the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
A kind and compassionate caregiver who quickly creates a relaxing environment, Dr. Hepler works hard to listen to patients, get to know them and help them make the best decisions to improve their health. She has special clinical interests in caring for whole families, women’s health, diabetes management and caring for children.
Dr. Hepler is currently living in Randolph while she searches for a home for her and her dog, Cosmo, closer to Chelsea. (She notes patients have already been helpful and welcoming as they call with leads on rentals.) In her free time she enjoys snowshoeing and hiking with her dog, kayaking, and flower and vegetable gardening.
Dr. Hepler is now seeing new patients. Call her at the Chelsea Health Center at (802) 685-4400.
The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.
The theme of this year’s Annual Report is a Recipe for Success. Without question, Gifford had that recipe in 2013! We continued to gain great recognition for what we’ve done, while taking major strides to position ourselves to do even more in the future.
In 2013, as we awaited permits for the senior retirement community, we undertook important expansions to the Kingwood and Sharon health centers. Ultimately, the senior retirement Act 250 permits and Certificate of Need were granted, making us ready to break ground for the new nursing home in the spring of 2014, with independent and assisted living options to follow. Moving the nursing home will enable us to renovate our inpatient unit, with single-patient rooms that will significantly improve health safety and comfort for patients using that facility.
In addition, we earned designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center. This will enable us to expand our core commitment to primary care, including new initiatives and collaborations to extend dental and mental health services to underserved areas.
As we have pursued these plans for the future, Gifford has continued its commitment to patient care and furthering the health of our communities. We are extremely proud that Dr. Lou DiNicola was given the Physician Award for Community Service by the Vermont Medical Society. We are delighted that Major McLaughlin was named the national Outstanding Senior Volunteer. We are humbled by the continued recognition of the Menig Extended Care Facility.
As we reflect on these accomplishments and look forward with tremendous anticipation to 2014, it is an honor for the Board to serve an organization that continually goes above and beyond. Even as we experience constant change in today’s health care environment, we have great confidence that Gifford’s ever-evolving recipe will generate success this year and for many more to come.
Joseph Woodin, Gifford’s administrator, speaks at Saturday’s Annual Meeting of the medical center’s corporators. Woodin outlined a year of success.
If there was any doubt that Randolph’s local hospital – Gifford – stands above when it comes to commitment to community and financial stability, it was wholly erased Saturday as the medical center held its 108th Annual Meeting of its corporators.
The evening gathering at Gifford featured an overview of the hospital’s successful past year, news of spectacular community outreach efforts, a video detailing employees’ commitment to caring for their neighbors and a ringing endorsement from Al Gobeille, chairman of the Green Mountain Care Board and the evening’s guest speaker.
Diane and William Brigham, corporators, arrive at Gifford’s 108th Annual Meeting.
For Gifford, 2013 brought a 14th consecutive year “making” budget and operating margin, new providers, expanded services including urology and wound care, expanded facilities in Sharon and Randolph, a designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center and all permits needed to move forward on the construction of a senior living community in Randolph Center and private inpatient rooms at Gifford.
The Randolph medical center also collected a ranking as the state’s most energy efficient hospital, an award for pediatrician Dr. Lou DiNicola, national recognition for Outstanding Senior Volunteer Major Melvin McLaughlin of Randolph and, noted Board Chairman Gus Meyer, continued national accolades for the Menig Extended Care Facility nursing home.
Al Gobeille, chairman of the Green Mountain Care Board, speaks at Gifford’s 108th annual corporators meeting on Saturday evening at the Randolph hospital.
“In the meantime, we’re faced with an ever-changing health care landscape,” said Meyer, listing accountable care organizations, payment reform initiatives and a burgeoning number of small hospitals forming relationships with the region’s two large tertiary care centers.
For some small hospitals, these shifts cause “angst.” “We like to think it brings us possibility,” said Meyer. “As both a Critical Access Hospital and now a Federally Qualified Health Center, Gifford is particularly well positioned to sustain our health as an organization and continue to fulfill our vital role in enhancing the health of the communities we serve.”
Joan Granter, left, and Irene Schaefer, corporators, arrive at Gifford’s 108th Annual Meeting.
The FQHC designation brings an increased emphasis on preventative care and will allow Gifford to invest in needed dental and mental health care in the community, Administrator Joseph Woodin said.
Gifford is but one of only three hospitals in the country to now be both a Critical Access Hospital and Federally Qualified Health Center.
“Congratulations! You’re a visionary,” said Gobeille in addressing Gifford’s new FQHC status. “It’s a brilliant move. It’s a great way to do the right thing.”
And Gifford is doing the right thing.
Gobeille was clear in his praise for Gifford’s management team and its commitment to stable budgets, without layoffs or compromising patient care.
Marjorie and Dick Drysdale, corporators, arrive at Gifford’s 108th Annual Meeting.
Gifford’s commitment also extends to the community.
In a major announcement, Woodin shared that thanks to the William and Mary Markle Community Foundation, Gifford will grant a total of $25,000 to schools in 10 area towns to support exercise and healthy eating programs.
Gifford annually at this time of year also hands out a grant and scholarship. The 2014 Philip Levesque grant in the amount of $1,000 was awarded to the Orange County Parent Child Center. The 2014 Richard J. Barrett, M.D., scholarship was awarded to Genia Schumacher, a mother of seven and breast cancer survivor who is in her second year of the radiology program at Champlain College.
The continued use of “Gifford Gift Certificates,” encouraging local spending during the holiday, invested about $40,000 in the regional economy in December. “These small stores appreciate it. It really does make a difference,” noted Woodin, who also detailed Gifford’s buy local approach and many community outreach activities in 2013, including free health fairs and classes.
The community in turn has invested in Gifford. The medical center’s 120 volunteers gave 16,678 hours in 2013, or 2,085 eight-hour workdays. Thrift Shop volunteers gave another 6,489 hours, or 811 workdays. And the Auxiliary, which operates the popular Thrift Shop, has both invested in equipment for various Gifford departments and made a major contribution toward the planned senior living community that will begin construction in May.
Outgoing Gifford board member David Ainsworth arrives with wife Peggy to Saturday’s 108th Annual Meeting of the Corporators.
The night also brought new members to the Gifford family.
Corporators elected two new of their own: Matt Considine of Randolph and Jody Richards of Bethel. Considine, the director of investments for the State of Vermont, was also elected to the Board of Trustees and Lincoln Clark of Royalton was re-elected.
Leaving the board after six years was Sharon Dimmick of Randolph Center, a past chairwoman, and David Ainsworth of South Royalton after nine years.
‘Recipe for Success’
“Recipe for Success” was the night’s theme and built around a fresh-off-the-press 2013 Annual Report sharing patient accounts of Gifford staff members going above and beyond. The report, now available on www.giffordmed.org, credits employees’ strong commitment to patient-care as helping the medical center succeed.
Taking the message one step further, Gifford unveiled a new video with staff members talking about the privilege of providing local care and the medical center’s diverse services, particularly its emphasis on primary care. The video is also on the hospital’s Web site.
Gus Meyer, chairman of Gifford’s board, honors retiring board members David Ainsworth and Sharon Dimmick.
Health care reform
Shifting resources to primary and preventative care is a key to health care reform initiatives, said a personable and humorous Gobeille, who emphasized affordability.
“We all want care. We just have to be able to afford care,” he said. “In the two-and-a-half years I’ve been on the board, I’ve grown an optimism that Vermont could do something profound.”
Gobeille described what he called “two Vermonts” – one where large companies providing their employees more affordable insurance and one where small businesses and individuals struggle to pay high costs. “The Affordable Care Act tries to fix that,” he said.
The role his board is playing in the initiatives in Vermont is one of a regulator over hospital budgets and the certificate of need process, one as innovator of pilot projects aimed at redefining how health care is delivered, and paid for, and as an evaluator of the success of these initiatives as well as the administration and legislators’ efforts to move toward a single-payer system.
Audience members asked questions about when a financing plan for a single-payer system would be forthcoming (after the election, Gobeille said), about how costs can be reduced without personal accountability from individuals for their health (personal accountability absolutely matters, he said) and how small hospitals can keep the doors open.
Gobeille pointed to Gifford’s record of financial success and working for the best interests of patients and communities as keys. “I don’t think Gifford’s future is in peril as long as you have a great management team, and you do,” Gobeille said.
Gifford’s Blueprint for Health Team has expanded to include additional mental health and addiction counselors offering one-on-one care at all Gifford primary care locations. In this file photo, from left, care coordinator Keith Marino, Health Connections (financial assistance) case worker Michele Packard and certified diabetes educator Jennifer Stratton discuss a patient at the Bethel Health Center.
In 2012 as part of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Gifford Medical Center completed a Community Needs Assessment.
Less than two years later, the Randolph-based medical center has already made huge strides addressing many of the needs found in that study.
In a survey of Town Meeting attendees in nine communities in 2012 plus feedback from other groups, community members’ described their priorities for a healthy community, perceived health problems and risky behaviors in the community, and their health needs or lacking services.
Among factors for a healthy community were good jobs and a healthy economy, access to health care, good schools, and healthy behaviors and lifestyles. Top health problems listed by survey respondents included addiction, obesity, and unhealthy lifestyle choices. Top health needs, or services community members have tried unsuccessfully to access, within the community were assisted living and nursing home care, alcohol and drug counseling, and dental care.
Today, Gifford is preparing to break ground in the spring on a senior living community in Randolph Center that will, over time, provide a full spectrum of housing options including the relocation of its award-winning nursing home and newly created assisted and independent living. Gifford has earned the coveted Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) designation, making it one of only three hospitals in the country to be both a Critical Access Hospital and an FQHC. This means expanded access to care, including dental and mental health care. And the medical center’s Vermont Blueprint for Health Team has greatly expanded over the past year to include more mental health and addiction counselors, providing services at all Gifford primary care locations.
Among Gifford’s free community services is a chronic illness support group. Here Gifford pharmacist Jane McConnell provides medication advice to past participants.
“Each of these major initiatives, which have taken substantial work, targets an identified community health need. Meeting these needs and addressing the community’s feedback defines the future of Gifford and its expanding role,” says Ashley Lincoln, director of development and public relations at Gifford.
The Community Needs Assessment process is required every three years, but Gifford’s efforts are ongoing. The medical center continually provides community outreach initiatives to meet care needs, many of which are offered for free. These include classes, support groups, and health fairs. Additionally, many initiatives support local economic health, including a buy local approach.
The medical center also continues community outreach daily through a boots-on-the-ground approach that has Blueprint Community Health Team working directly with individuals and community organizations to address health and socioeconomic needs, particularly for the chronically ill.
“The Blueprint for Health is a statewide initiative. Gifford has placed extra focus on meeting community members’ needs so they can successfully manage their health,” says Blueprint Project Manager LaRae Francis. “This approach means not waiting months or years for needs to be determined, but matching resources and needs today to create an ongoing healthier community for all.”
A grant from through the Vermont Department of Health helped support the costs of the 2012 report. The full report is available on Gifford’s website in the “About Us” section under Community Reports.
For a 14th consecutive year, Gifford Medical Center in Randolph has completed its fiscal year “in the black” and on budget.
Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin made the announcement to staff on Friday following a detailed auditor’s review of the hospital’s 2013 fiscal year finances. The fiscal year ended Oct. 31.
Specifically, the medical center achieved both its state-approved budget and operating margin. An operating margin is the money the medical center makes above expenses – usually by 2 to 3 percent – to reinvest in programs, staff and facilities.
Achieving the operating margin can be an indicator of an organization’s success. “No margin, no mission” is a saying often used within non-profits. Gifford has made both its budget and margin each of the last 14 years – a major feat among Vermont hospitals. Continue reading →