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Your Cathedral Has Been Leveled. Now What?

As 347-bed St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, MO begins to contemplate rebuilding, many issues come to the fore.  I’m sure there will be no shortage of advice-giving pundits and consultants. One hopes that out of that miasma emerges a clear-eyed vision of hospital demand going forward.

Parent organization Sisters of Mercy Health System, Chesterfield, MO, has vowed to rebuild with an array of services. Lynn Britton, president and CEO of Sisters of Mercy Health System calls it “…a wonderful opportunity to re-imagine” health care in Joplin.

A once-in-an-executive’s-lifetime opportunity, really.

But what is that talking? Pride? The “Show Me” state’s resilience above all? Steadfast loyalty to employees and physicians?  All necessary and, for now, a healthy tonic for a shocked community.

But rebuild what? Where?

The givens:
  • rebuilding requires capital.  Lots of capital, 
  • the possibility that the ‘new’ Joplin will have fewer residents, and 
  • lower overall demand for healthcare (as did post-Katrina New Orleans) and, finally, 
  • the fact that, pre-May 22, Joplin was a two-hospital town with both facilities reporting mixed-to-poor financial results.

1. Rebuild in place. Replace what was lost. “Let’s rebuild St. John’s, only bigger and better.”

2. Build a new ‘hospital of the future’, whatever that means. “Let’s design and build a less-costly St. John’s, safer, networked, wired, efficient and patient-pleasing.”

3. Effect a merger with cross-town competitor Freeman Hospital. St. John’s now has a chance to become whatever the new organization needs it to be. “Let’s create one SUCCESSFUL hospital in Joplin and build additional capacity only when/where necessary to deliver services to a now-smaller town.”

4. Construct an entirely new model of health care delivery. "We need to create a joint-venture organization. St. John’s value-add is building a distributed care network. Freeman’s value-add is as the inpatient chassis."

5. OK, I’ve supplied a few ideas, now it’s YOUR turn. It is a wonderful opportunity to re-imagine health care in Joplin. What advice would you offer?

Think outside the walls, beyond the edifice. Way beyond.

Think prevention and wellness. Think engagement and the tools necessary for behavior change.

Think new networks and technologies. Think an information-rich health ecosystem.

Most of all, THINK!

Follow me on Twitter @whatifwhynot


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