Porter Medical Center begins a five-year plan

By KAITLYN GIROUARD

 

COURTESY PHOTO
Porter Medical Center’s new five-year plan includes a concept for new medical services, including a Pain Clinic, increasing appropriate wages and benefits for employees, and developing proactive health measures for residents.

Porter Medical Center recently published a five-year plan with visions to renovate and add infrastructure, hospital functionality and additional services. 

“The five-year plan is intended to support our overall mission, which is to improve the health of our community one person at a time,” Vice President of Communications and Engagement Ron Hallman said. Hallman has worked at UVM Health Network/Porter Medical Center for 30 years.  

Hallman noted the plan is not something of the future; the center has already begun work towards initiatives of improving health care in our community. The plan can be summarized into four main areas of focus: access, new services, employees and population health. 

Porter’s five-year plan focuses on access in order to connect people with doctors in a smooth and efficient manner. “If people can’t get in to see a provider, then it doesn’t matter what the services are,” Hallman said. 

Porter is also working towards adding new service lines including a Pain Clinic, which would serve as a department for the treatment of chronic pain complications. Other new services would include Cardiac Rehabilitation and Express Care. “[We are] always looking for opportunities to add new lines of service so that we can provide care here locally to all of our citizens,” Hallman said. 

Hallman also noted plans to focus on Porter’s employees. “We want to invest in our employees so that they have appropriate wages and benefits and opportunities for growth,” he said. Hallman explained that a large part of achieving growth in the employee pillar of the plan has to do with transitioning to the Epic platform, an online system widely used throughout the medical community for maintaining electronic health records. 

“We are going live on Nov. 1 with the first wave of this new electronic health record,” he said. Hallman hopes that the implementation of the new electronic health record program will greatly improve patient service at Porter. 

“Instead of having a different medical record at the hospital and at your doctor’s office and at the nursing home and then up in Burlington, you’re going to have one medical record,” Hallman said. By transitioning to this electronic program, patients will be able to have their medical records easily follow them to the different services they may need. 

The fourth pillar of the five-year plan is population health as Porter shifts its focus to the community as a whole rather than solely the sick and injured. “We are putting strategy in place to help people stay well and healthy and avoid expensive healthcare treatments,” Hallman said. 

“I have a personal interest in our medical office building because it’s going to help us align some services underneath my medical group that definitely need to be realigned,” Porter Vice President Tom Manion said. Manion explained that the five-year plan includes the addition of an office building that will allow for programs to be centrally located. 

“We are going to be able to combine the Women’s Health and Pediatric Group in a Mother-Baby Unit that’s on-site,” Manion said. As of now the pediatricians who are on call are 10–20 minutes from the birthing center, which is not ideal for either of the programs. Manion feels that the best part of the program is access for college students; Porter is often very busy and it can sometimes take weeks to months to make appointments for simple things like a sinus problem referral.

 “With Epic, we’re able to actually look across all our organizations,” Manion said. This would increase access for community members, students and staff for other locations and doctors at places such as UVM. The transition to Epic will play a crucial role in this access as it will allow for one’s medical record at Porter to be easily accessed by other places digitally. “I think what improves the health of our community improves the health of the College’s community the same,” Hallman said. 

The five-year plan does not come without drawbacks. “It all costs money, it all requires capital,” Hallman said. According to Porter president Seleem Choudhury, the medical center is currently seeking permission for a $30 million medical office building alone.

Manion voiced concern about the Epic platform, and the amount of time and feedback that will be required to install and optimize the program. “Between Nov. 1 of this year to Oct. 1 of next, we are going to live in an interim state, which means we have an outpatient record and an inpatient record,” Manion said. During this period the medical records won’t “talk” to each other as well which could potentially cause stress and problems for the employees. 

“Likely more staff will be needed to help with that,” Manion said. 

“Healthcare is a tricky business,” Hallman said, and widespread changes do not come without struggle. Nevertheless, the leaders of Porter hope this plan will enhance the services the center offers and help make our community a better place for everyone.

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