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The future of healthcare in DL: EHSM's president talks about goals

Peter Jacobson has been the president of Essentia Health St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes for about four months now.

Essentia Health St. Mary's is getting all of its ducks in a row and getting ready to take healthcare to a new level as a more organized, uniform provider.

"We'll be responsible for quality of care and performance," Peter Jacobson said. "Not just treating patients but caring for a population."

Jacobson, who serves as the president of St. Mary's and senior vice president of the Minnesota market of Essentia Health west region, spoke during a roundtable discussion last week, promoting Essentia Health and fielding questions.

He has been at the Detroit Lakes Essentia Health location for about four months, "getting to know who we are and what we are," he said of the 730 employees in Detroit Lakes who come from 50 different zip codes.

A triple aim for Essentia Health is to improve the health of the population, enhance patient experience and lower the per capita cost, Jacobson said. And one of the biggest hurdles all healthcare facilities will be working with is chronic illness.

Chronic illness is on the rise. In 1995, there were 118 million people in the United States diagnosed with chronic illness. In 2010, that number rose to 141 million. By 2030, it's projected to be at 171 million.

"How do we coordinate and deliver care? Chronic illness has a lot to do with that," Jacobson said.

The top 1 percent of the population uses up 24 percent of the dollars spent in healthcare, he said. The issue is how to treat those with chronic illness, but "do it in the most cost effective way."

One thing that is changing the face of healthcare is the Affordable Care Act of 2010. There are 74 provisions of the Act that will be implemented over the next eight years. The Act itself is about 1,000 pages long.

Before diving into those changes though, Essentia Health concentrated on becoming a stronger entity, united under one name.

With several hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities coming under the same umbrella over the last several years, a name change was in order to get all properties uniform. A unified brand -- Essentia Health -- was set, and each community's city or other identifier was attached to the new name, like St. Mary's for the Detroit Lakes' facilities.

Jacobson said they wanted to keep the Catholic affiliations as well. He does admit though, the multiple name changes over the last few years have been "driving people nuts."

Essentia Health has 750 physicians, 750 credentialed providers, 62 clinics, 15 hospitals, five long-term care facilities, three independent housing facilities and one assisted living facility that serve the Upper Midwest.

The shared vision is that Essentia Health is called to make a healthy difference in people's lives. He stressed that "called" is a big part of the difference between just having a job with Essentia Health and really having a calling to be there in that profession.

"We're doing the big picture but also making sure we're meeting local needs," he said. "By 2018, our vision is we'll be a national leader."

While locally St. Mary's has gone through a major renovation and expansion in the last couple years, there is still more to come, Jacobson said. For one, the MRI machine will be moved into the hospital, not outside in a trailer as it has been. They will also be building a new facility in Frazee, and there are plans to renovate the "old clinic" in Detroit Lakes, he added.

There are also new physicians coming on board, some in specialty areas, like pediatrics for example.

One major change at Essentia Health that happened last week was implementation of the Epic system, which is a computer programming system, the most popular and most used in the nation.

Not only is Epic bringing all patient files together, it will also bring several new healthcare opportunities in the future, including MyHealth starting in July.

Through MyHealth, patients will be able to access their files at home and look at test results, schedule some appointments and send messages to their healthcare providers, Jacobson said.

Also with Epic, regardless of the healthcare provider a patient sees, Essentia Health will be able to access the information. Jacobson used the example of an ATM machine to compare the versatility and accessibility. Even if you bank at one bank, you can use other banks' ATMs around the world.

The point of Epic, which cost $16 million to install, "should all lead to better quality and lower costs," he said. It may take a while for the cost of the Epic system to be recovered, but it will be worth it in moving forward for the future.

Not only are hospitals and clinics like Essentia Health making changes to keep up with patient needs and the technological world, it helps in recruiting new physicians and providers as well.

Younger doctors, Jacobson said, expect these upgrades because it's what they're learning on and about.

Recruiting physicians, he added, is difficult. Some changes that will be made include forming care teams with nurse practitioners and LPNs and one doctor to work together and see more patients, saving time for the doctor to see patients when a doctor is required.

If there are less doctors and more patients, Jacobson questioned, how does a healthcare facility do it?

Chamber of Commerce President Carrie Johnston asked what the chamber, and the community as a whole, can do for Essentia Health to help recruit more providers to the Detroit Lakes area.

"Be in it all together," Jacobson said. "And a lot of recruiting is recruiting the spouse, too."