When Jeremy Hodshire walks through the halls of the Hillsdale Community Health Center, he greets every doctor, nurse, and staff member by name, with a smile on his face.
As the Director of Organizational Development and HCHC board member, Hodshire’s close relationship with his fellow employees is exemplary of the commitment the hospital has made to its patients and the broader Hillsdale community — a commitment that will keep the hospital open and ready to serve, even in face of changes President Barack Obama’s new health care laws have made to the operation of rural hospitals.
“Our main priority is to ensure that we have local healthcare for Hillsdale County,” Hodshire said.
For the past 100 years, HCHC has been able to do just that. However, the Affordable Care Act has put rural, independent hospitals like Hillsdale’s in a difficult position. As a result of this new legislation, 3,000 lives in Hillsdale County alone are now insured by Medicare or Medicaid, government-funded health insurance.
“We are challenged as a small, rural hospital because of Medicaid and Medicare. The government pays us less than commercial insurances do, so we have to watch our bottom line very close,” Hodshire said.
In fact, with the expansion of government insurance, nearly 68 percent of the hospital’s insurance reimbursement now comes from the government.
Reimbursement for those using Medicare and Medicaid must be qualified by positive patient feedback. Upon leaving the hospital, patients are selected at random to take a survey and review their experience at HCHC. Should these results reflect poorly upon the hospital, the government is able to withhold up to 30 percent of their projected reimbursement.
The hospital is currently leading the country with its scores in quality care, and is in the 90th percentile for employee satisfaction.
Hodshire explained that all employees at HCHC are taking measures to keep quality scores high. Doctors and nurses are taking classes in bedside manner and participating in other programs that teach them the skills of customer relations, because the hospital is committed to achieving the scores it needs to keep its budget intact and its doors open.
The employees’ work isn’t only within the hospital, however. Employees are also reaching out to the Hillsdale community.
“We realized that at the hospital we’re dependent on a robust economy,” said Duke Anderson, CEO. “We participate as an organization which is in a relationship with the private sector.”
While Hillsdale County used to be home to manufacturing companies tied to the automotive industry, the recent economic crisis has led to the closing of factories. Because of this, workers who used to be insured by Blue Cross Blue Shield or other commercial insurances are now covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Conscious of this, HCHC is fighting to build relationships with businesses, the Economic Department Partnership, and South Central Michigan.
Of course, while their efforts extend outside of the hospital, they’re primarily focused on making sure their facility is of quality and is up-to-date.
“We’re always looking at ways to reinvent ourselves,” Hodshire said.
HCHC is a 100-bed hospital, but it’s also home to a 40-bed nursing home, a brand-new obstetrics unit, and four operating room suites. In one year, the hospital will perform 140,000 outpatient services, which include X‑rays and blood draws.
HCHC is also a teaching hospital, and is partnered with Michigan State University, providing a place for young doctors to train for their future careers. They also offer a volunteer program for students at Hillsdale College on the pre-medical track. Students earn their certification as a Nursing Assistant free of charge, and provide help to the hospital’s emergency room, learning valuable experiences as they watch doctors and nurses at work and assist in logistical tasks.
“If you really want to be a doctor, this gets you used to it so the first time you’re in an environment you’re comfortable,” said Hillsdale College sophomore Emma Carville.
Between training the next generation of doctors and reinventing itself to meet the new government standards, HCHC is intent upon remaining available for Hillsdale County.
“At the hospital, we pursue the three Cs,” Hodshire said. “Caring for patients and their families, commitment to them, and community. We need their partnership to make sure this hospital stays open another 100 years.”