Internally, our 1,200-plus employees continue to focus on meeting the demands placed on us as a health care provider; externally, we continue to identify ways to better serve our communities.
The Fisher-Titus goal from our board of directors down through each of our employees is to provide high-quality, safe, and efficient health care to every person we serve. We are not perfect and never will be, but we constantly strive to meet and exceed the expectations of our patients. Statistical information reveals that we do that better than the vast majority of our peers, specifically in our quality ratings and cost of care.
Future health-care trends indicate that the government (Medicare/Medicaid) and private commercial insurers will continue to push patients to lower-cost settings for their care and shorter stays in the hospital. This movement away from using hospital resources poses a significant risk to independent community hospitals. Many have chosen to partner with larger health systems, while others have shut their doors forcing their communities to seek alternative locations for care.
At Fisher-Titus, we have set strategies in place that will allow us to continue as an independent, community-based facility for the foreseeable future. We believe that local people (our board members and management team) making decisions for their neighbors and communities is an integral part of providing quality health care in our region.
Two important decisions that we believe will secure additional patient volumes for Fisher-Titus going forward, thereby offsetting the push by insurers to non-hospital settings, were made in 2018 and will fully roll out in 2019.
The first is our trauma partnership with MetroHealth announced last October. For years, the number of patient transfers out of our facility to other locations for various services have been increasing. Many of these patients could have been managed at Fisher-Titus if we had the appropriate level of staffing from a skill level standpoint. Through our MetroHealth partnership, which provides oversight to our Level 3 Trauma Program and specialized trauma surgeons working in coordination with Fisher-Titus physicians and staff, more patients will be able to stay at Fisher-Titus and recover close to their families rather than be transferred to another facility. The second phase of this partnership began earlier this month when MetroHealth expanded its trauma expertise to pre-hospital care by collaborating with North Central EMS on transportation services.
The other big change focused on heart and vascular services at Fisher-Titus.
Since the opening of our Heart & Vascular ten years ago, we have partnered with three different organizations in efforts to develop a high quality, stable service line utilizing the state-of-the-art facilities and advanced medical technologies within the Snyder/White Heart & Vascular Center. In each of these cases, our expectations were not realized for any number of reasons.
Our most recent affiliation with Cleveland Clinic Heart & Vascular Institute ended in November generating some negative feedback from the community. At the time we announced our plans to end the affiliation, we were not able to provide details about that decision because of contractual legalities. To summarize, the affiliation had not developed the cardiovascular services in our community that were expected. In fact, procedural volumes at Fisher-Titus had dropped steadily over the years and the expensive affiliation fees resulted in significant losses for our health system. At the same time, patient transfers to Cleveland facilities continued to grow. Facing continued losses, our Board of Directors and management team elected to pursue other alternatives for heart care at Fisher-Titus.
As we contemplated our strategy going forward, we considered market data and recent changes in Ohio Department of Health regulations relative to cardiology procedures. This led us to a decision that the best solution for providing a level of cardiac care to meet the needs in our area was to develop our own service line.
The Fisher-Titus Heat & Vascular physician group began scheduling patients on December 1. Since then close to 200 patients have been seen. We are very pleased to share that our highly trained cardiologists also are utilizing our high-tech heart and vascular procedure labs to perform diagnostic cardiac catheterizations, and in mid-February we will add interventional cardiac stenting to our menu of services for the first time since we opened the center in 2008.
As with our trauma implementation, we will continue to ramp up our volumes and procedures over a period of time to insure high quality and safety. Rest assured, our strategy is to only provide those services that are well within our normal clinical capabilities.
We are very excited about these enhanced services being offered at Fisher-Titus. Fisher-Titus is YOUR hospital … it is community owned and managed. We appreciate the continued support that our local communities have always provided, and we look forward to many more years as an independent provider of health care services to our region.
This is one in a series of columns by local public officials and business leaders. We asked them to share their thoughts, along with goals and challenges for 2019.