Springfield, MO

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Cox Health Systems plans expansion of its services

Posted online

by Laurie Glenn

for the Business Journal

The length of stay is coming down for patients at Cox Health Systems, but it's being outweighed by a 5 percent increase in patient admissions. And that's driving Cox Health Systems' expansion of services and new technology in 1998, according to Chief Executive Officer Larry D. Wallis.

"It's due in part to greater population growth than some previous demographic studies had suggested," Wallis said. "That's coupled with Springfield and the surrounding area's retirement population. Medicare patients are greater utilizers of the health system."

Cox Health Systems' health care forecast includes:

Expanded services

?A cardiac infusion center for individuals with congestive heart failure (CHF) is under construction in the Medical Arts Center on the Cox South campus. CHF is a chronic heart disease involving abnormal sodium and water retention, which results in congestion of the lungs and peripheral circulation. However, CHF can be managed if caught early.

Similar to Cox Health Systems' dialysis unit, the dedicated cardiac infusion center will allow patients direct admission for infusion therapy resulting in better health management in a customer-friendly environment.

?Managed care has grown significantly in the Springfield area, and Cox Health Systems has been proactive with the introduction of managed care products. A joint project of Cox Health Systems and Freeman Health System in Joplin, Cox-Freeman Healthplans offers a commercial product, gatekeeper health maintenance organization (HMO) and a point-of-service HMO product. President Gary Jacobs predicts continued growth in both programs in 1998.

Cox-Freeman Healthplans will submit its application to the state of Missouri to provide a Medicaid HMO. Effective Sept. 1, 1998, the Medicaid HMO covers a 25-county area in southwest Missouri and will provide services to 65,000 women and children. Additionally, Cox-Freeman is developing a plan for a Medicare risk program and will be submitting an application to the Health Care Financing Administration.

Cox Health Systems Insurance Company continues to provide group insurance to businesses of two or more employees and has obtained approval to offer an insurance product for individuals. The latter offering will be available in mid-1998.

Primrose Healthcare Services, a physician hospital organization, continues to grow in the number of physicians and hospitals participating in the program. The number of lives covered through contracts directly with employers and third party payor agreements surpassed 100,000 covered lives in 1997.

?Cox Regional Physician Clinics encompasses 45 local and area physician clinics and 127 physicians. Physician recruitment for family practice and internal medicine doctors, particularly in southern Springfield, is a top priority for 1998, according to Senior Vice President Bill Senneff.

New clinics are planned for Springfield, Republic, Lebanon and West Plains. Cox is also working with Skaggs Community Health Center in Branson on clinics in Branson West, Forsyth and Crane.

New Technology

?New heart monitoring equipment called the Life Pack 11 will be installed this month in Cox Health Systems' ambulances. The equipment will transmit 12-lead EKGs in the field, allowing heart attacks to be diagnosed in the prehospital setting and eliminating the need for a first EKG when the patient arrives in the emergency department.

It will also be possible for the cardiologist on call to be notified and for the necessary treatment to be determined before the ambulance arrives.

?Sophisticated pediatric ocular function testing can now be performed locally instead of seeking care outside Springfield thanks to new Ganzfold Stimulator equipment now in place at Cox South.

?Upgraded fluoroscopy and two new radiographic rooms have been added in response to patient volume and expanded applications.

?The number of cardiac electrophysiology studies in the Cox South catheterization lab has grown tremendously, necessitating the development of a new, dedicated electrophysiology lab.

?A third dedicated cardiovascular operating room suite is being added in response to a large increase in heart surgery patients.

?A three- to five-year strategic plan valued at $15 million in capital equipment has been launched to integrate information systems for all Cox Health Systems affiliates. In addition to addressing compliance issues for year 2000 concerns, the primary goal is to replace the current patient accounting, management and clinical systems.

The benefit to the patient is elimination of multiple registrations. "We hope to be more customer focused and avoid unnecessary duplication," said Ron Prenger, vice president of support services.

?Cox-Monett Hospital has added or upgraded multiple technologies due to its affiliation with Cox Health Systems, including sleep studies, EEG (brain wave) technology, blood gas system, modified barium swallow studies, radiology, nuclear medicine and rehabilitation services.

?Cox Health Systems Regional Physician Clinics' two biggest initiatives for 1998 are to further the introduction of electronic medical records and change the clinics' information systems to improve patient billing and tracking.

(Laurie Glenn is director of public relations for Cox Health Systems.)

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