As we close out the year we look back at a year of tremendous change for healthcare both on the Vineyard and for the rest of the nation. On our Island we said goodbye to the tired and outdated wooden barracks that had served as our hospital and moved into a new state-of-the-art facility purpose-built for the needs of our community. On the national scene, President Obama ushered in a new era for healthcare when he signed the Affordable Healthcare for America Act into law. The goal of this legislation is to grant access to affordable, quality healthcare for all Americans.
It has been eight months since the new Martha’s Vineyard Hospital (MVH) was inaugurated and six months since we moved all inpatient activities into the new facility. The move was well orchestrated and within hours all patient activity had shifted to the new building. In the ensuing months we have adapted well to our new surroundings. We have corrected the small glitches that accompany any move and we could not be happier with our new hospital.
We are grateful to the many patients who have given us constructive feedback regarding their experiences. Our hospital now uses a focus group of Island patients and family members to help implement changes based on patient feedback. Such feedback has resulted in changes to the way we manage the flow and registration of patients in the emergency department and will result in continued improvements. One of the changes planned for the New Year is telephone registration, so that patients can pre-register for procedures and tests rather than having to wait after arriving at the hospital.
The comfortable and welcoming feeling of our hospital is underpinned by technology that only a few years back we could only dream about. While we are proud of our new operating rooms, CT scanner, digital mammography, private patient suites and new emergency department, among others, it is our dedicated staff members that make our hospital unique. Patients have told me that they value all the modern amenities available in the new building, but most of all that they appreciate seeing one of our familiar and reassuring staff members ready and able to take care of their medical problems. Working at a hospital that cares for the population of a compact Island lets us recognize most of our patients as friends, neighbors, teachers, policemen, editors of our local papers, and it is this recognition that we are taking care of our own community that makes working at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital particularly rewarding.
Next year our parent organization, the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, will celebrate the bicentennial of its founding. The MGH will be looking back on an unequaled history of providing compassionate and quality care. Medical research and discoveries at the MGH, most famously the development of anesthesia in 1846, have improved the lives of everyone reading this piece. As the MGH heads into its third century it is not standing idly by. It is preparing to open the Lunder Building, the single largest investment ever in a hospital building in our country. This building will be the foundation of the future of healthcare, intended to help carry MGH medical leadership and innovation into the next century.
This leadership in technology, innovation, and compassionate care has its costs. Despite record philanthropic support from patients and the community, both the MGH and MVH rely on payments for their services to pay for these costs. Such payments have come under increasing scrutiny as the rising costs of healthcare threaten to undermine our country’s economic competitiveness and the financial survival of many of our patients.
The new healthcare legislation signed by the President in March aims to legislate changes into our healthcare system to help control costs and to improve accessibility so that we can all lead healthy and productive lives. These changes go beyond simply reducing payments. They include incentives and research funding to update and improve the way our patients receive care. In a groundbreaking study, a team at the MGH has already shown that with a novel multidisciplinary approach, costs for the sickest recipients of Medicare support can be reduced while substantially improving the quality of their health. Many more such studies and pilot programs are in the works so that the MGH will not only survive in this new economic climate, but that it will continue to lead healthcare into the future.
By having tethered our hospital to the MGH express, MVH will be one of the first to reap the benefits of the changes being pioneered at our parent hospital. Already we are partaking in system-wide quality initiatives that are helping to improve the health of our diabetic and hypertensive patients.
We also use MGH databases to monitor the safety and accuracy of our prescriptions, and we look forward to implementing a computerized order entry system next year. As we head into the New Year, we look forward to the challenges that loom as we continue in our quest to provide for the health of our island community. We look back and give thanks to our patients, our supporters, and the MGH for what has been by all accounts an amazing year at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.