Jason Studley picked an interesting time to become the CEO of Trinity Hospital of Augusta.
Replacing the recently retired Jim Cruickshank, he has had to make contingency plans for a U.S. Supreme Court decision on health care reform that could come as early as Monday, in addition to his other strategic planning.
“Luckily, we’ve planned ahead so we are prepared for either direction” the decision might go, Studley said. “Of course, one way is going to be easier than another, but we are still prepared either way.”
If the individual mandate to buy health insurance is struck down, “essentially what that is going to do is continue on business as usual,” he said. “But at the same time there are going to be rate cuts. And the ones that are going to be affected the most are the physicians.”
That’s why many physicians are seeking to be employed by health systems such as Trinity, Studley said.
“We’re definitely looking at acquiring physician practices, especially ones that are already established in the area, as well as employing and recruiting new physicians to the area,” he said. “The newest national trend is to have physicians on an employed basis rather than being independent. And a lot of that is being driven by the uncertainty with the health care market right now.”
Should the individual mandate be upheld, “it will be good for the hospital in the sense that right now we do so much charity care and care that we are not reimbursed for,” Studley said.
The hospital said its combined indigent and charity care last year was $10.4 million.
Still, suddenly having a number of newly insured patients might bring its own problems, he said.
“Do we have the resources and the capability to support a huge influx of patients that aren’t currently utilizing the health care system?” he said.
Outside of health reform, the hospital is looking to build up primary care services such as women’s health, where there is already great demand, Studley said. It is also adding some new services.
The hospital is looking to open an Urgent Care service about July 1, “to be able to provide 24/7 access without having to utilize an emergency room setting,” Studley said. It is also enhancing services in the Emergency Department.
“We have a 30-minute pledge, from door to doc time, for the community,” he said. “Our goal is to have every patient, as soon as they walk in the door until the time they see a physician, to be 30 minutes or less. We’re right on track with that.”
The hospital is adding a 16-bed general psychiatric unit, which Studley hopes will be open by Sept. 1, that will cater to patients 55 and older. Many of those patients also have other problems, such as heart or lung disease, that need to be treated, he said.
“It’s nice that we’re able to combine psychiatric services with medical services into one unit and actually offer them the ability to address all problems at once,” he said.
Studley is no stranger to the Augusta area or to Trinity, where he was assistant CEO in 2010 before leaving for L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital in Greenville, Ala.
“We loved Augusta, so we jumped at the opportunity to be able to come back,” he said. “Augusta is a large small town. It is large in the sense that it has a lot to offer in the way of industries, retail shops, events, parks. It has a great home-school component to it as well. We home-school our children, so that is very beneficial to us. But at the same time it has a small town kind of a feel to it. People are very friendly and genuinely concerned about their neighbors. That’s just something that really appeals to us.”