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Piedmont touts experience with hospital affiliations

A leader at one of two candidates for an affiliation with Henry Medical Center (HMC), said changes in health care nationally, could translate into benefits for local patients.

"The landscape of health care ... is changing dramatically," said Ed Lovern, chief administrative officer for Piedmont Healthcare. "Some of the things that are going to happen, are really going to increase the value of affiliations and relationships between different hospitals."

Lovern spoke Wednesday at Eagle's Landing Country Club in Stockbridge, during a meeting of the Henry Council for Quality Growth. Piedmont Healthcare is vying with Emory Healthcare, to become an affiliated partner with HMC.

Lovern said linking with HMC would create jobs, and relationships between Piedmont Healthcare, and Henry County.

"We're very excited about the prospect of working with Henry, and we think that Piedmont's vision, and the way they do business, is really well-designed to have a relationship with Henry," he said. "We've got good experience at doing it in other communities."

Lovern said officials in the health-care industry are working toward creating more standardized methods of caring for patients. "People get better if you [treat them] a certain way," he said. "The ability to implement those [methods] on a broad scale, makes a difference. It doesn't take away from personalized care, but it means people have a better quality of care."

Lovern added that Piedmont has demonstrated an ability to establish successful affiliations with community hospitals in other areas. The health-care system works in conjunction with medical facilities in Atlanta, Newnan, Fayetteville, and Jasper, Ga.

Nina Day, vice president of Corporate Communications for Piedmont Healthcare, said her system is "very interested" in partnering with HMC.

"There are a lot of synergies between the organizations," said Day. "Our missions are aligned, we're both community-based and not-for-profit. Henry's always been on our radar screen, as a good community to get involved with, and we already treat tens of thousands of people from Henry County every year. So, it's really natural for us to consider it, and for them to consider us."

She added that one practice which could help HMC, is the advent of hospitalists, primary-care doctors who are based at a hospital.

"[A hospitalist's] sole job is to follow patients in the hospital," she said. "Many of our primary-care doctors only see patients in their office, then they turn the patient over to the hospitalist, to care for the patient while they're in the hospital. Communication is a lot better because the doctor is not torn between his office practice, and the hospital."

HMC Chief Executive Officer Charles F. Scott said affiliation discussions are ongoing with Piedmont and Emory. "Pretty much everything that Mr. Lovern spoke about, we've already heard," Scott said. "But, what we heard ... is exactly the reason that Piedmont Healthcare is one of two excellent organizations that are at the top of our list for an affiliation partner.

"Part of our consideration is, how would an affiliation benefit us?" he said. "It certainly helps to look at the track record of Piedmont ... and the success that they've had in other communities."

That track record was a source of encouragement for Steve Cash, executive director of the Henry Council for Quality Growth. Following Lovern's presentation, Cash said Piedmont, unlike Henry, has enjoyed success in the health-care industry for decades.

"We could learn a lot from them," said Cash. "We've already seen that they are a community-oriented hospital. They've ... been involved with a lot of things already. We like seeing a business coming into the county, and being directly involved with its people."

Cash acknowledged that one reason he is impressed with Piedmont Healthcare stems from when he and his family were patients at Piedmont Fayette Hospital. "It's an incredible place," he said. "They've got a clean track record. They're coming in to provide medical care, and to try to do it better. They've got a diversity that Henry Medical Center does not have."

Cash added that Emory Healthcare will give a presentation in the future, during a separate meeting of the Council for Quality Growth.