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Improving Health Through Shared Data

DSC_0051.JPGIt was a packed room at the Maine Shared Community Health Needs Assessment forum for Penobscot County on September 19 in Bangor. Here, folks representing dozens of state and local agencies along with healthcare organizations gathered to talk about the issues affecting the health of our communities and how we can work together to improve the lives of all Mainers.

We believe in making healthcare work better for every patient, which requires us to understand our communities and the factors that contribute to our health and wellbeing. The Maine Shared Community Health Needs Assessment, also known as CHNA (pronounced “China”), provides up-to-date health information at the state, county, urban, and sub-population levels with the intent to turn that data into actions that improve the health of all Maine people.

These robust reports filled with valuable (and interesting) information do not sit idly on some administrative office shelf collecting dust—far from it. Maine Shared CHNA partners hit the road and present this information to all who would like to attend the presentation and have a say in how health initiatives are prioritized around the state.

Doug Michael, Northern Light Health chief community health and grants officer said, “We want to share these data and get our neighbors’ input about what they see as our biggest health issues. New this year, the presentation will also include a list of past priorities and what our partners have been doing to address them. This is an exciting opportunity to discuss how we can improve the health of our community.”

DSC_0067.JPGThese forums take place throughout the state and create an opportunity for the public, law enforcement, municipal health departments, hospitals, health centers, and anyone with a vested interest in the health of Maine people to talk with one another and share ideas.

“We have the opportunity to network with folks from a variety of organizational backgrounds at the Maine Shared CHNA forums,” shared Nicole Hammar, manager of Community Health Improvement at Northern Light Health. “Simply talking about ways to leverage limited resources based on organizational ability has the potential to create stronger collaborations, focused on identified priorities, to ultimately improve the health of our communities.”

At Northern Light Health, our hospitals will use the Maine Shared CHNA information to set health priorities and action plans for their patients and communities, while at the same time tying into our system’s overarching health improvement initiatives. You can read up on what our hospitals have been working on since the last CHNA “cycle” for health improvement initiatives on our website at https://northernlighthealth.org/Community-Health-Needs-Assessment/About-the-CHNA-Reports.

The Maine Shared CHNA is conducted every three years and is a partnership—like no other in the nation—between Northern Light Health, MaineGeneral Health, Central Maine Healthcare, Maine Health, and Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Want to know more?
Download your local CHNA community health profile and find a forum near you at: http://mainechna.org.

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Expanded Emergency Service Answers Need in Hancock County

Ambulance-photo-for-article.jpgThe time it takes for first responders to arrive on the scene can mean the difference between life and death in a medical emergency. So, when County Ambulance, an emergency transport company serving Hancock County, decided to close after more than 40 years of service, Ellsworth and surrounding communities were understandably concerned about their ability to maintain reliable emergency response services for the region. After thoughtful discussions with the affected towns, Northern Light Medical Transport & Emergency Care agreed to step up to the challenge. On August 31, they seamlessly began responding to calls for ambulance service within the region—an interim arrangement while local communities determine the best long-term, sustainable approach for their service areas.

Joe Kellner, vice president, Emergency Services and Community Programs for Northern Light Medical Transport & Emergency Care shared, “We are well positioned to serve these communities. Not only are we able to provide two 24/7 ambulances equipped to respond to emergency calls, we are also able to provide redundancy and back-up from our Bangor base during unanticipated spikes in call volume.”

Discussions regarding the region’s long-term emergency response strategies are still taking place, but Northern Light Medical Transport & Emergency Care’s assistance has been well received. “The communities have been incredibly welcoming, and our providers have expressed how much they enjoy working in Hancock County,” added Joe. “Because of our scale, we are able to be flexible with resources to ensure consistent coverage in both Bangor and Ellsworth.”

In the first month, Northern Light Medical Transport & Emergency Care responded to 209 requests for 911 service. 154 of these patients were cared for by our EMS providers to the hospital.

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Shining a Light on 340B

IMG_5471-(002).jpgOn September 18, Northern Light Health president and CEO, M. Michelle Hood, FACHE, joined leaders from the American Hospital Association (AHA) and other hospitals as they announced new proposed principles for the 340B program.

These principles were created by an AHA 340B Task Force—of which Michelle is a member—in an effort to increase transparency and accountability within the program. They recommend 340B program participants publish an annual narrative, or report, that describes how they use 340B savings to benefit the community; publicly disclose the savings in a standardized method, and continue internal training and oversight to ensure they meet government rules.

The federal 340B drug-pricing program was created more than 25 years ago and allows hospitals and other healthcare organizations that treat a large number of low-income and uninsured patients to buy certain outpatient medications from pharmaceutical companies at a discount. The AHA announced these principles at a time when there has been pressure from some lawmakers and watchdog groups for increased oversight and transparency as to how hospitals and healthcare organizations use their savings to benefit their patients and communities.

“The 340B stewardship principles will help hospitals better tell their story of how this crucial program is delivering a variety of important benefits to patients and communities,” said Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the AHA in a release sent in September. “In an era of skyrocketing drug prices, 340B has been critical in helping hospitals expand access to comprehensive health services, including lifesaving prescription drugs.”

The program has been making headlines in the last few years as healthcare advocates speak out against the government’s delay putting into place regulations that would require price transparency for pharmaceutical companies. Additionally, Northern Light Health (then EMHS) joined AHA and others in a lawsuit against CMS for a more than $1.6 billion cut to the 340B program. Pollack hopes that CMS will change course on the cut if the association's new effort sheds light on 340B spending.

Michelle said the 340B program helps provide a range of healthcare services to Maine’s underserved and uninsured patients and communities. “Providing good stewardship of the 340B program will help ensure that participating hospitals can offer these comprehensive services that expand patient access to care.” Within our system, Northern Light AR Gould Hospital, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, Northern Light Inland Hospital, Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital, Northern Light CA Dean Hospital, and Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital participate in the 340B program.

Thus far, AHA's new principles have been endorsed by The Association of American Medical Colleges, The Children's Hospital Association, the 340B Health Coalition, America's Essential Hospitals, and the Catholic Health Association of the United States.

We will continue to advocate for the 340B program and, as always, will be sure to keep you informed as to the latest events and developments.