By Scott Faingold
It’s been a big year so far for Springfield Clinic, and things show no sign of slowing down.
In January, the institution merged with Marshall Clinic in Effingham, according to Springfield Clinic chief administrative officer Mark Kuhn. The move has brought 10 doctors, 10 nurse practitioners and more under the Springfield Clinic umbrella. In addition to taking over the former Marshall offices in Effingham, Kuhn points out that the new location provides outreach in Altamont, Lewisville, Newton, Neoga and Stewardson. “This was a very successful, big-ticket merger for Springfield Clinic,” Kuhn said.
Other changes include a group of three family medicine physicians in Mowequa who joined the clinic this year and, coming up in October, two local ophthalmologists will be moving into the SC headquarters. “Our class of 2016 will be 38 new physicians and 34 new nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants,” Kuhn said.
The clinic has also activated new technology this year, converting all two-dimensional mammography units to three-dimensional units. “This provides much better image quality and detection rate,” Kuhn explains. “It is truly the state of the art, really super.”
Other technological advances this year have included a new program of low-dose computed topography which Kuhn describes as a “method of screening certain smokers to monitor the prevalence of lung cancer” and retinal imaging, utilizing a noninvasive camera, which significantly reduces the time it takes for a diabetic patient to have their eyes imaged and those images interpreted by a retinal surgeon to look for elements of eye disorder. SC cardiologists are now able to perform TAVR procedures (tran-catheter aortic valve replacement); and GI physicians and general surgeons with advanced training in endoscopic surgical procedures have developed a new center for advanced endoscopy – an improved way to identify and create access to patients with advanced GI, swallowing or intestinal scenarios, which Kuhn describes as a “new center of excellence for Springfield Clinic.”
Regarding plans for 2017, Kuhn says the clinic’s focus will be on “improved access, improved outcomes and tools to reduce overall cost of care.” He explains that insurance companies and employers are increasingly trying to find ways to partner with physician groups to help reduce overall costs of care and reduce elements of expensive services including emergency room services, admissions and pharmacy services. “If you can replace an ER visit with a prompt care visit or an office visit, the savings is a factor of 10, most times,” Kuhn says. “If you can prevent an admission or re-admission, that’s several thousand dollars worth of savings every time you do that. If you can substitute a generic drug for a brand name drug that’s a significant savings every time you do that. Physicians are being increasingly called upon by insurance companies or employers to become accountable for not only the clinical aspects of care but the economic aspects.”
Of course, things are not all sunshine and roses. “Everybody in the Springfield region is adversely and disproportionately affected by the budget impasse,” Kuhn points out. “People in Peoria or the quad cities could not care less about it, but for people in Springfield it is a bigger percentage of what we do.” Major fallout from the impasse directly affecting Springfield Clinic include over 13 months of non-payment for state services in addition to large amounts of late payment. “It’s causing some massive cash-flow issues, says Kuhn. “People are digging into reserves, needing to borrow money and put off capital improvements, building improvements and hiring decisions.”
On the brighter side, at least from Springfield Clinic’s perspective, is the recent hiring of Tom Fitch, long-time director of pre-construction services for O’Shea Builders. Fitch recently accepted the position of director of facilities at SC. “We already knew Tom very well from his days at O’Shea,” Kuhn says. “He has helped us with many projects. The opportunity suited his skill-set and the timing was right. We are very excited about him starting and continuing to help us with our facilities.” Fitch will be involved in a territory of over 200 miles, encompassing facilities from Macomb to Effingham.
Overall, Kuhn says Springfield Clinic is fortunate to be part of a thriving medical landscape. “I would say Springfield is truly a very progressive medical community,” he says. “With two large hospitals that are full-service, there’s a good opportunity to retain care locally – you don’t need to go to Peoria, St. Louis or Chicago – most care can be provided here in our community, given the infrastructure of physicians and hospitals in place.”