Trinity benefits from change

The difference in a year at Trinity Hospital of Augusta, Allan Joseph noticed, is a physician can see a dingy wall, call the administration and see someone painting it hours later. It is in a new electronic medical record system that will allow Dr. Joseph to access records from home, and in new equipment throughout the facility.

But just as important is the sense of stability felt throughout the hospital, he said.

"While there are a lot of changes going on, people feel a bit more comfortable," said Dr. Joseph, one of several physicians on Trinity's board of trustees. "They feel like there is a foundation being set in place over here upon which people can really build for the future."

In the year since the former St. Joseph Hospital became Trinity, there are changes large and small. Not the least of these is a heavy involvement of physicians, CEO James Cruickshank said. In the years before St. Joseph was sold, many physician requests couldn't be filled. Not so now, he said.

"Physicians, their whole practice, their whole lifestyle is it's got to be done now," Mr. Cruickshank said. "Patients have to be seen now, surgery has to be done now. When they point out an issue or point out something that needs to be addressed, they expect it to get done."

It could be as simple as putting an awning between a physician office building and the hospital to keep the rain off or as complex as improving operating room efficiency. Mr. Cruickshank said he asked staff to focus on trying to meet the standards of not the other hospitals but the free-standing surgery centers who make it their only business. The result has been greater efficiency and a 35 percent increase in the number of surgeries, he said.

"If we can do that efficiently and still keep the patient feeling like they're not just somebody in a process, it's very beneficial for the surgeon," Mr. Cruickshank said.

Keeping that personalized feel of a smaller community hospital, and the spirituality that epitomized St. Joseph, is still a key goal, he said.

"We don't want to get so engrossed in the technology that we forget about the needs of the patient, the compassion, and what we're really here to do," he said.

The facility is looking to capitalize on areas of expertise in bariatric surgery and orthopedics.

The key is finding that balance between high-tech and personable care, Dr. Joseph said.

"When you have those elements along with an upgrade in technology to where it is convenient and facilitates the physicians managing the patients, that's the best marriage of both worlds," he said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

MORE PATIENTS, MORE MONEY

Part of the financial turnaround since St. Joseph Hospital became Trinity Hospital of Augusta a year ago has been simply because of treating more patients. The hospital had 1,200 more surgeries in that time period compared with the previous year, and 850 more patients were admitted to the hospital than in the previous year.