Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Winter 2019 - 16

Changes in Health Care in Berks County
continued from page 15

M e d i c a l R e c o R d F e at u R e

Tower Health
There have been amazing changes at Reading Hospital just in
the last 12-15 months. Reading Hospital appeared to be a very
successful hospital enterprise. What were the reasons then for
all of this dramatic change-in particular the creation of Tower
Health?
We formed Tower Health to bring excellent healthcare to
more communities. Tower Health's service area now includes 2.5
million people. We are one of the largest providers of care between
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and are recognized nationally for quality
and safety. We wanted to create a dynamic and innovative health
system that is large enough to adapt to the changing healthcare
environment and implement population health initiatives that are
the future of healthcare delivery. In creating Tower Health, we have
helped to secure not only the future of Reading Hospital, but the
futures of the five hospitals that have joined with Reading Hospital.
As we focus on improving quality, safety, and value throughout
the entire system, it will benefit patients, physicians, and the
communities served by each Tower Health hospital.
There have been some concerns raised that with the attention
to Tower Health and the needs of the new 5 hospitals acquired,
that there may be less attention to the needs of our local Reading/
Berks community. How will TH/Reading Hospital assure local
Berks County patients - and in particular the underserved
community - that they are a priority?
Our commitment to Reading and Berks County remains
unchanged, and is stronger now that we are serving the community
as Tower Health. Our executive leadership represents continuity
and consistency across the system, and we have recruited new
leadership at Reading Hospital and the other Tower Health hospitals
responsible for focusing on community needs in their respective
service areas. The patients and communities we serve in Reading
and Berks County will continue to experience the same level of
commitment and will enjoy new opportunities as we enhance our
services and programs.
A medical school is a huge commitment. Do we have the
local resources to make this a success? Will medical students
have the opportunity to get involved in our community rather
than live in an isolated cocoon in West Reading/Wyomissing?
In working with the Drexel University College of Medicine,
we have a great partner with a record of integrating community
outreach and service into the education of future physicians.
Building a 4-year regional branch campus here represents a
tremendous opportunity for our region, not only for the opportunity
to bring additional services and programs to the area, but through
economic and business development that will follow the arrival of
these medical students and faculty. We are really excited about all the
benefits that will accrue not only to Tower Health, but to the entire
Reading area.
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With the increase in resources available as a result of
health system growth, and the shift in payment model to one
emphasizing population outcomes, what initiatives are under
way or being planned to address the social determinants of health
affecting the residents of Berks County during patient encounters
with providers and in the systems' interface with the outside
community?
We are very active in looking at how social determinants
influence the health of individuals and communities. Reading
Hospital is one of 22 recipients of funding from CMS for a project
that screens individuals to understand their issues around housing,
utilities, transportation, violence, and food-all of which can have
a big impact on their health. So far in 2018 we have screened 6,000
individuals at 17 local clinical sites and connected these patients
to services that can help. We plan to expand this service in 2019 to
include clients of the Berks County Community Health Center. This
Community Connection Project is a partnership with communitybased social service organizations, which also provide important
feedback that provides guidance and identifies gaps in service. Our
staff has been invited to present our experiences and outcomes to
other programs nationally.
Mental health care has been recognized as one of the areas
needing the greatest attention in the Community Health Needs
Assessment studies by both local health systems. Insufficient
numbers of behavioral health professionals and lack of their
integration into primary care practices are among the problems
identified in this area. How will your health system work
to improve access to mental health care, especially for the
underserved inner city population of Reading?
Last year we announced a joint venture with Acadia Healthcare
to build a new, free-standing 144-bed behavioral health hospital
in Bern Township. Acadia is an international provider of mental
health services and we've been working together to make sure
the new facility will provide the types of services that are needed
in our community. These will include inpatient and outpatient
care, addiction services, adolescent and geriatric care, physician
professional services, consultation, and other services. The new
facility will greatly expand upon what Reading Hospital has
traditionally offered. We anticipate welcoming patients in early
2020.
Improving care for people with chronic diseases is another
area where innovations in models of primary care have been
shown to improve outcomes. What changes can patients
anticipate in their experience under your system's primary care
model over the next 5 or 10 years? Patient Navigators can be a
valuable resource for patients facing conditions such as cancer
and heart disease. Would your system consider navigators
for uninsured/underinsured patients who may be particularly
challenged navigating our very complex health care system?
Over the next few years we believe patients will see many
more alternative settings for primary care. Primary care in retail


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Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Winter 2019

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