A Time of Transition at BSMC
September 4, 2019
Big Sandy Medical Center was built in 1965 by the great community we all live in today. It was a fully functioning clinic and hospital at that time and babies were even born in the facility until 1985. Also, in 1985, the Long-Term Care center was added to help meet the needs of the aging community. As medicine has evolved, the facility has evolved. For the last 34 years it has operated as a full medical center. Today BSMC offers care to patients of all ages; in the Clinic, Emergency Department, Critical Access Hospital and Long-Term Care facility, all under one roof. As advancements in technology and changes in health care policies in our nation have evolved, it is again time for our facility to do the same. As of October 1, 2019, we will become a Critical Access Hospital and no longer be licensed as a Long-Term Care Facility. The Clinic is considered a separate entity; the licensing will remain the same there.
So, what exactly does this mean? For our current residents, not much will change. They will stay in their same rooms, receive the same care and continue on as normal. We will still be able to accept new residents to live with us after the conversion is over too. For our staff, we will begin complying with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines for Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) throughout the whole facility, instead of the guidelines for Long-Term Care (LTC) facilities. A lot of adjustments will be made through the billing and nursing departments; and we will be able to accept patients of different acuities (levels of care) than before. What does this mean for you, the public? You will see more computers in our facility. You will see the room numbers on the walls change. You might even see staff with a few more gray hairs (change is always hard). However, you will still see our smiling faces as you continue your medical care here at BSMC.
The decision to convert was agreed upon by the facility's Board of Directors this year to allow for better reimbursement from CMS. They have been watching the numbers for a few years now, and it has become the best financial decision as we move forward. With the changes in licensing comes the need to demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT). In 2009, the government introduced the "Meaningful Use" program, now called "Medicare and Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Programs," as a way to encourage facilities and providers to use electronic health records (EHR). The goal of the program is to improve better quality, safety and efficiency of healthcare in the United States. Over the last 10 years the program has changed from financial incentives to adopt systems, to penalties for not adopting and meeting specific criteria within the EHR. The three big objectives from CMS this year include the ability to prescribe medications electronically, electronic exchange of health information between patients and doctors, and being engaged with a public health agency or data registry to submit public data in a meaningful way. We have been using an EHR in the ER, hospital, and clinic since 2012; however, our LTC documentation has remained on paper. As we will no longer be licensed as an LTC, we must transition the whole facility to an EHR. We find ourselves in a bigger transition than originally anticipated as shortly after the decision was made to transition fully to a CAH, we received notice that our current EHR would no longer perform updates to maintain compliance with the government guidelines. That means, as we convert to a CAH we will also be converting to a new computer system facility wide. Our staff have already begun the training and building of the system and are excited to take advantage of the capabilities it provides. We do ask your patience with all of our staff as we work through these changes. Please know that the facility will remain fully functional during this time, however we will not be accepting new admissions to the LTC (Nursing Home) until after October 1; the projected "go-live" date.
We appreciate your continued support, your patience, and your faith in us with your health care needs. Thank you for being the heart of BSMC.