Improving health care
Piedmont CEO: Georgians leaving state for care
by Clay Neely - firstname.lastname@example.org
“One-third of Georgians have left our state for health care reasons,” Kevin Brown, president & CEO of Piedmont Healthcare, told a gathering of Coweta area business people Tuesday.
Brown spoke at the monthly breakfast forum held by the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce held at the Newnan Centre.
“That was shocking to me,” Brown said. “In a place as sophisticated as we are, that we’re having that many people leaving our state for health care. We need to be a destination for health care, not only in Coweta but across the state.”
“There’s no reason anyone should have to travel outside Georgia for health care,” Brown said.
Prior to becoming CEO of Piedmont Healthcare in 2013, Brown served as CEO for Seattle’s largest non-profit provider, Swedish. Upon his arrival to his new territory, he was surprised to see how difficult it was for Georgia residents to acquire access to primary care.
“As a result of the difficulty in finding care, most practices are full,” Brown said. “If you’re a new patient, it’s way too hard. Our seniors and the uninsured – we want to improve access – in our community and state.”
Improving the efficiency of emergency rooms is also a primary goal for Brown. An emergency room with no waiting time is a feasible goal and can be done, according to Brown.
“I’ve seen it happen. But you can’t do that unless you change the operating system,” Brown said. “In Georgia, our emergency rooms are three times as long as those on the west coast, which share the same population density.”
Reducing the cost of health care to the community is a priority for Brown, who envisions Piedmont continuing its focus on being a community-based health care system.
“We’re a large system but we’re also local,” Brown said.
“By focusing on the quality, safety and service, we feel that we can be the best,” Brown said.
Brown also discussed Piedmont’s transition to a comprehensive electronic medical record and practice management system called Epic.
The new system, which stores all health information from each of the Piedmont hospitals and doctors’ offices into one electronic medical chart, will allow doctors, nurses and other health care personnel across the Piedmont Healthcare system to access patient information. Test results, patient charts, reports and other important information will be available in real time at all Piedmont facilities.
“The transition was very smooth and we didn’t experience much disruption,” Brown said.
Brown also discussed the new Piedmont WellStar Healthplan.
Piedmont Healthcare and WellStar Health System joined forces to start a health insurance product of their own, aiming to make health coverage more affordable to businesses and individuals.
The Piedmont/WellStar insurance plans are scheduled to begin offering coverage in October.
The program will start out with 35,000 members – employees of the nonprofit Piedmont and WellStar systems and their dependents. The health plan is also seeking to offer coverage to employers with 50 or more employees, as well as a Medicare Advantage plan.
Brown also addressed Piedmont’s impact on the community. Along with being a safety net for the community, the company is also the third largest employer in Coweta county, said Brown – citing 979 jobs and an indirect economic impact of $290 million dollars.
With all the goals and challenges that Piedmont Healthcare faces, Brown is optimistic about the future and feels the company is headed in the right direction.
“It’s been a fantastic year,” Brown said. “Because of Piedmont’s reputation and level of care they offered, the more the idea of coming here intrigued me. People have been so gracious and we’re very happy to be here.”