NMC Commentary

How Is NMC Planning for the Future?

NMC is working through a comprehensive strategic planning process to guide the hospital through the turbulence of healthcare reform over the coming three years so we can continue to provide exceptional care for our community. With all the changes in the healthcare system and all the pressing priorities at hand, it is difficult to pause and focus on the future. Still, it is imperative that we do so, as these are challenging times for community hospitals, and nothing can be taken for granted. One thing we do know: we need to redefine who we are.

Recently, as I have shared, we completed the formal Community Health Needs Assessment which identifies the priorities facing our community and serves as one of the foundational elements for the hospital’s strategic planning. Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Obesity, Suicide, Domestic/Sexual Assault, Food Insecurity, and Tobacco/Vaping are the pressing priorities and NMC has an action plan for our role in helping the community address each one.

Last week, NMC’s Board of Directors, Medical Staff leaders, and Leadership Team heard a presentation from planning experts from Quorum Health Resources on the Environmental Assessment they have compiled for our region based on extensive utilization data review, stakeholder interviews, market assessment, patient input, provider supply, demographic studies, trend analysis, etc. They helped us look at our situation locally where NMC is focused, at the state level where Vermont is a leader in the transformation to population health, and at the national level where 11 hospitals closed in the past six months.

The stakeholder interviews highlighted NMC strengths including strong community support with perceptions of high quality, compassionate care; a strong and engaged Medical Staff; strong partnerships; a caring nature toward employees; and a forward-looking approach to population health. A theme within responses to weaknesses was the challenge of balancing focus and resources for too many initiatives happening at once. There are many opportunities for NMC: becoming even more patient-centered and ‘consumer-friendly’; embracing innovation through telemedicine and other technology; expanding partnerships; and continuing to invest in both the employee experience and population health. As we proceed, we are aware of the threats of the ‘bigger is better’ perception; the cherry-picking by non-traditional competitors; the revenue cap imposed by the State; and the impact of changing reimbursement models.

Various groups within NMC will be reviewing and discussing this information over the course of the summer months. We will continue to engage our staff and providers and partners in conversations. In September, NMC Board, Medical Staff Leaders, and Leadership Team will come back together with Quorum’s facilitation to craft the plan to move the organization forward with a focus on highly reliable quality care and population health to meet community need while balancing with financial sustainability, and ultimately bring us to a healthier future for all. The timing is critical, given all that is happening in healthcare here in Vermont and nationally. We look forward to our budget discussions with the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) in August to help them understand our work, our future, and how regulation impacts all of it. We need to align priorities and efforts within NMC, across our community, and across the state for the transition to a value-based system to actually work. It is complex yet necessary work.

Fundamentally, NMC’s strength is the trust our community places in our hospital, our staff, and our Medical Staff on a daily basis. We are truly a community hospital and each one of us takes great pride in caring for you and your family. This will be the connecting thread through all of our planning – how can we best meet the needs of our community and improve the health of our community, both now and in the long-term.

— Jill Berry Bowen, RN, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer