South Georgia Medical Center and its Problems

South Georgia Medical Center (SGMC) is a non-governmental not-for-profit referral hospital situated in Valdosta, Georgia. The hospital, with a bed capacity of 335, provides a wide range of health care services in the South Georgia and North Florida regions. In addition, it provides many employment opportunities to the locals of Lowndes County (SGMC website, 2010).

SGMC is generally a health care provider. Ranging from mild diseases to serious illnesses and across all ages, the medical center takes its pride in service availability. They also provide other educational services related to health issues. The medical center has several facilities and programs that help in meeting the increasing needs of health services. These include The Birthplace, Community Health Promotion, Dasher Memorial Heart Center; Diabetes Management Center, Digestive and Pulmonary Disease Center, Emergency Department, Healthcare South, Medical Imaging Services, Mobile Health Care Services, Neurosciences, Occupational, and Industrial Medicine Center; Outpatient Center, Pearlman Cancer Center; Rehabilitation Services, Sleep Center, Surgical Services, The Women’s Place, Walk-In Laboratory, Wound Healing Center, and youth Care.

Hospital QuickCheck Report (1992) revealed that the hospital had 335 Total and Certified beds, no swing beds, 24 Rehab Unit beds, and 48 Psychiatric beds. In addition, the hospital had received accreditation from JCAHO; it had approved Medical eligibility and complied with program requirements. It also had no Medical school affiliation.

The services provided include Acute Renal dialysis, Anesthesia, Anatomical laboratory, Blood bank, Clinical laboratory, Dietary, ICU Medical/surgical, Neonatal Nursery, Nuclear Medicine, Obstetrics, Occupational therapy, Operational rooms, Outpatient, Outpatient Surgery units, Pediatrics, Pharmacy, Physical therapy, Post Operative Recovery rooms, Psychiatric, Radiology: both diagnostic and therapeutic, Respiratory care, social care, Speech pathology, Surgical service in-patient, and emergency services.

The report also revealed that the hospital had a staff comprising professionals in different areas of health sciences. For instance, the medical center had 3 dieticians, 89 LPN/VN nurses, 1 medical social worker, 2 occupational therapists, 673 other personnel, 4 physical therapists, 289 registered pharmacists, 20 respiratory therapists, and 3 speech pathologists/audiologists. However, some of these professionals are independent contractors and not permanent employees. The surgical operation services that were available include Angiography, Bariatric surgery, coronary bypass surgery hip replacement, knee replacement, Lithotripsy, Orthopedic surgery, PTCA, spine surgery, Ultrasonography, and Vascular Surgery.

The report revealed a high level of satisfaction of the patients by the services provided. Among the interviewed patients, 63% rated the hospital’s performance High, 26% rated it Medium, and only 11% of them rated the overall performance Low. Besides, 66% of them would definitely recommend the hospital to friends and family members, 28% would probably recommend the hospital while 8% would definitely recommend the hospital to friends and relatives (Hospital QuickCheck Report, 1992).

Some problems at South Georgia Medical Center

The medical center has had some difficulties in running its programs just as many other health institutions have. For instance, “records become voluminous putting a premium on systems that can both organize a large amount of information and retrieve it quickly and accurately” (Woeste, 2004, p2). There has been a problem in the data management that followed a program crashing in the data management software that was experienced in 2002. Johnson (2004) gave a narration of what transpired in the data management section. She had served in the cancer-data management section for a long time and was very conversant with all the regular (routine) records involved as well as the operations of the data management software. However, in 2002 “the software she was familiar with was phased out and she was forced to convert her registry to another product; this did not go well” (Johnson 2004).

The Cancer Data Management department had only two staff and one volunteer but had “to handle a database of about 11,000 cases, and [the figure that was] increasingly growing” (Johnson 2004). Thus, a problem of understaffing was also noted. The registry software they had used for a long had been developed by CansurFacs and later sold to Impac Medical System. A directive by Impac that all its users should use their new replacement product and the adoption of such procedures by the department caused the problem. They could not cope with the new software operations. More problems were experienced for almost four months until they sought software that was easy to understand. Thus, not only was there a problem of understaffing but also a lack of skilled personnel who would grow with the technological advances.

Just like the other institutions, the medical center needs capital for the expansion of its facilities to meet the increasing needs of its clients. Thus, there is a need for the hospital to solicit funds elsewhere, a step that may or may not succeed. The other problem that has been witnessed in the medical center is the disclosure of medical information to unauthorized persons. This has been prompted by the need to research further in the various health fields that have eventually led to conflicts among professionals.

Solutions

As an attempt to solve the software problem, the department changed to different and more user-friendly software, CNExT, in March 2003. Nevertheless, this could not be the solution; a lot of training needs to be given to the staff to ensure they understand the most recent technology. The training may be initially expensive but its fruits are evident later on. The use of new technology that is prone to little or no errors should be preferred to the use of those that are easy to operate.

One such technology is the BD.id Patient Identification System. This is not new but its integration of various technologies that had been existence into a single entity makes it superior to the previous systems. It involves the use of a handheld computer and uses barcoding, the techniques that had been in existence. The new system has proved more reliable inaccurate data management. The South Georgia Medical Center adopted the technology sometime in 2003. The records since this period have shown improvement over the same that they had in the previous years (Woeste, 2004, p2). In particular, the amount of error that was recorded four months before and after the adoption of the new BD.id system showed a 72% reduction of the error. The system has other advantages. Unlike many new technologies, it is easy to learn and adopt. Around one or two hours of training have proved sufficient for acquiring the needed expertise. Besides, it has also been proved cost-effective. The other institutions that have adopted the system are Valley Hospital and Swedish American Hospital. More other institutions have also shown interest in the system.

South Georgia Medical Center is also a client of an information technology and health care consulting firm, First Class Solution Inc, which provides training on the management of health records.

To regulate the unnecessary disclosure of a patient’s medical information, the medical center under the Hospital Authority of Valdosta-Lowndes County issued a notice of privacy practices in relation to the uses and disclosure of medical information. It outlined what was provided by the law concerning the issue, the purposes for which the information can be disclosed to a third party, the rights of the patients in relation to the medical information, and the necessary steps the patient can take to launch a complaint about unexplained disclosure of information.

Other advances: Managed Care at SGMC

Managed health care refers to a cost-effective system of providing efficient medical services to clients. It has the aim of providing quality services as well as subsidizing the service costs. Different forms exist but generally, a client is supposed to be paying some monthly premium to provide a medical cover. In addition, a health center could form a partnership with other hospitals or with the hospital physicians (Kongstvedt, 2009, p8).

There is also the South Georgia Medical Center Foundation that was established back in 1978. It was aimed at improving the quality of health care by obtaining private funding to the hospital. This would assist the medical center to expand its facilities and staff to be able to meet the increasing needs of medical services in the region.

References

Hospital QuickCheck Report. (1992). UCompareHealthCare. Web.

Johnson, L. (2004). South Georgia Makes a Switch. Web.

Kongstvedt, P.R. (2009). Managed care: What it is and how it works Third Edition. Sudbury: Jones & Bartlett Learning

SGMC website. (2010). South Georgia Medical Center. Web.

Woeste, S. (2004). Technology to Reduce Specimen Collection Errors. Laboratory Medicine, Vol.35, No.8. Web.