Monthly Archives

July 2019

Lab technician at LifeBrite

Technology Upgrades Revive Rural Hospitals

By Uncategorized

Christian Fletcher knows all too well the challenges facing rural hospitals.

As CEO of LifeBrite Hospital Group, Fletcher led the acquisition of two at-risk hospitals in rural Georgia and North Carolina. Both were in bankruptcy and on the verge of closure and were in desperate need of infrastructure and operational improvements. These hospitals needed critical upgrades so they could provide better patient care and attract and retain better talent.

“From an operations perspective, these improvements can mean the difference between life and death,” said Fletcher. That’s why LifeBrite Hospital Group has invested more than $300,000 in the facilities since 2017.

EMRs and rural hospitals

Innovative technology like electronic medical record (EMR) systems can transform rural health care, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. 

That’s why Medicare and Medicaid in 2011 launched a program providing financial incentives for health professionals and systems that adopt and demonstrate meaningful use EMR technology in patient care.

Among other things, EMRs enable remote rural hospitals to get real-time test results and input from other providers. It also allows them to coordinate with remote providers for specialized services not available locally. Finally, EMRs facilitate efficient transfers of patients, which is vital for critical access hospitals (CAH) like those operated by LifeBrite Hospital Group.

“As a critical access hospital, we are a stabilization facility,” Fletcher said. “Our job is to be a stabilizer, not a long-term acute care facility. Every time a patient is transferred to or from our facilities, it has to be documented and shared. EMRs allow us to do that more efficiently and accurately.”

Both LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early and LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes have swing-bed programs, or transitional care units, for patients recovering from surgery or from an injury. Often patients are transferred to these hospitals from larger nearby hospitals so they can complete rehabilitation closer to home. Each hospital has 25 acute care beds.

In the case of what is now LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, the former EMR system was actually better suited for a larger acute care hospital, Fletcher said. LifeBrite replaced it with a specialized  “built-from-scratch” system that better fit the health system’s needs.

Upgrading IT systems

Like most technology, EMR systems are only as effective as the information technology infrastructure.

Outdated IT infrastructure makes hospitals more vulnerable to hackers and data breaches and can hurt patient care and service. Outdated IT can even affect communication between departments since phone systems are usually part of the  infrastructure.

“When we came into both hospitals we had to look at basic infrastructure development. These were things that had been kicked down the road,” Fletcher said. “Updating the IT infrastructure was one of the first things we did.”

Improving employee morale and retention

Investments in technological improvements improve employee satisfaction and help in efforts to attract and retain staff. Fletcher said.

“When we came into Stokes, the morale definitely improved. The hospital was in the middle of bankruptcy. We had to really stabilize the situation with employees and with the facility. We also brought in other services to help build up the business,” he said.

Uncertainty around a rural hospital affects the whole community. When a hospital closes, per capita income in its community declines by 4% and the unemployment rate rises 1.6 percentage points, according to a study published in Health Services Research.

Physicians watched to see if LifeBrite could stabilize the facilities. Now, both hospitals are adding much-needed specialists to their rosters.

“Updating and improving hospital technology is key in efficiency, patient outcomes and employee morale and retention. That’s why it’s a core focus for LifeBrite,” Fletcher said.

“We want to consistently grow and improve both the quality and offering of services at our hospitals,” said Fletcher. “We invest in technology so we can improve patient care as well as improve the billing, claims and follow-up. We have to do better for these communities.”

Atlanta-based LifeBrite Hospital Group, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of EarlyLifeBrite Laboratories, and LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes.To learn more about LifeBrite Hospital Group, visit our homepage.

Emergency department entrance at a rural hospital in Georgia

Keeping Rural Hospitals in the Community

By Uncategorized

Rumors about the health of rural hospitals circulate in small towns all the time. The hospital isn’t going to make it. It’s going bankrupt. It’s going to close.

The rumors may not be true in every case, but they reflect a discouraging trend: A recent study found that one-fifth of rural hospitals in the United States are at a high risk of shutting down. 

The study, released earlier this year by Navigant, a consulting firm based in Chicago, says a total of 95 rural hospitals across 26 states have closed since 2010.

Rural hospitals are at risk in Georgia and across the country

About 20 percent of rural hospitals – a total of 430 – are at high risk of closure due to their financial situations. Their closures would affect 150,000 jobs. A range of factors contributes to the growing threat to rural hospitals including:

  • Loss of manufacturing and farming jobs in the community. These losses force residents to move to more urban areas. The ones who remain in the towns are typically very old or very young, unemployed, uninsured, and Medicaid/Medicare patients.
  • The hospital’s inability to keep up with technology. Dwindling patient numbers means less capital for improvements.
  • Talent struggles. Rural hospitals struggle to attract and retain staff to remain competitive with neighboring hospitals.

Federal healthcare cuts, particularly to Medicare, also took a heavy toll on rural hospitals. The rate of rural hospital closures increased six-fold between 2010 and 2015.  

Consider this: 77 percent of rural counties in the United States are considered “primary care health professional shortage areas.” Nine percent have no physicians, according to the National Rural Healthcare Association.

Reviving rural hospitals

LifeBrite Hospital Group recognizes the role rural hospitals play in a community and seeks to help revive threatened or closed hospitals in rural areas. 

“Not only do these hospitals provide vital healthcare, they are also key economic drivers in a community,” said CEO Christian Fletcher. “We aim to restore these facilities so they can attract new patients, increase cash flow, and help support the overall health of the community.” 

LifeBrite Hospital Group currently operates rural hospitals in its home state of Georgia and in North Carolina. It focuses on implementing innovative technology, such as electronic medical records (EMR) systems, to improve patient care as well as simplify the billing and claims processes.

Adding hospital administration expertise

It also brings its expertise in all areas of administration and patient care, including:

  • Advertising and marketing services including websites, promotional material, classes and sponsorships to the companies and facilities it manages.
  • Healthcare legal resources with decades of experience in healthcare permits and certification processes.
  • Information systems to improve patient records and billing and claims processes.
  • Access to capital needed to reopen, staff and grow previously closed hospitals.

Above all, LifeBrite brings a commitment to protecting and preserving rural hospitals and serving the members of those communities.

Pamela Tillman, administrator for LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, in Danbury, N.C., says she fights the rumor mill  by visiting with community groups and government officials and staying in touch with the patients so she can tell them about the services the hospital offers. 

“There has been a rumor going around since I started that the hospital is going to close. We have never closed and have no intention of closing,” she said. 

Atlanta-based LifeBrite Hospital Group, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of EarlyLifeBrite Laboratories, and LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes. To learn more about LifeBrite Hospital Group, visit our homepage.