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Friday, 24 February 2017 12:09
A Conversation with Calbone: Hospital CEO Talks Community Needs-Driven Change
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Angelo G. Calbone’s office at Saratoga Hospital has a warm and inviting atmosphere, not at all the cold, corporate look one might expect from a major healthcare center’s president and CEO. The day of the interview fell on Valentine’s Day, and his staff was enjoying the traditional box of chocolates he arranges for all employees throughout the hospital each year. Enzo, Calbone’s quick-footed spaniel named for Enzo Ferrari, was in the office that day, charming visitors. Calbone’s office setting reflects an overall sense of community that permeates throughout Saratoga Hospital and its mission and values. Calbone says that it is community that drives the hospital as it grows and changes to meet local needs. “The Sleep Center is a good example,” said Calbone. “We didn’t simply say, Lets just have a bigger sleep center. We had patients using an existing sleep lab in the community and overrunning it with demand, and having to send patients to Glens Falls, Albany, all over the region. Our identification of there being a need drove that.” Understanding how patients move through the system and watching local health trends helps influence the decisions on what services the hospital will provide, and that is how many of the facilities offered by the hospital, such as the Saratoga Hospital Center for Sleep Disorders, come about. In fact, looking over the last decade of Saratoga Hospital, some of the biggest changes driven by community need and healthcare trends include offsite locations, which rose from 5 to 23; number of employed full-time equivalent providers (6 to 130); and outpatient visits, which more than quadrupled from 55,342 to 249,180 visits. “We wanted to be a regional institution,” said Calbone. “We didn’t want to be more than ten minutes from any resident in our service area to one of our service locations. It’s important that we are geographically accessible.” And the hospital has done that, such as developing and expanding its urgent care centers. Calbone said that over 60,000 urgent care visits are handled between Malta and Wilton annually. “It wasn’t that many years ago that we had none,” said Calbone. Calbone added that the hospital’s biggest strategic accomplishment is probably the rise of the Saratoga Hospital Medical Group, which accounts for much of the growth in outpatient visits and other areas. As the industry and regulations changed over the years, it has become harder for physicians to maintain a successful, independent practice, so hospital institutions began hiring physicians to protect the provision of physician care in communities. By taking on the administrative burdens and centralizing regulatory practices – especially the expense of moving the industry to electronic medical records – fewer physicians would have to close their doors or move. “If we had not moved toward developing a medical group, this community was at risk of losing its physician base,” said Calbone. “And we would have found it impossible to recruit. We have also been very successful bringing talented doctors into the community.” According to Calbone, the new partnership with Albany Medical Center has strengthened that. “We now have a large medical group and this number increases every two or three weeks,” he said. “First off, the medial group stays inside of Saratoga Hospital, but they are interfacing with the medical staff at Albany Medical Center and talking about having, in future, medical students and residents rotate through up here. We have a number of physicians that enjoy teaching. Now, having a relationship with us means they can also have a relationship with an academic center.” Calbone said it is beneficial to have medical students around because they ask good questions and provoke good inquiry, and they are a good draw to attracting high quality physicians to Saratoga, especially as some specialties will only work with an academic medical center. “The partnership also helps us keep them busy,” said Calbone. “We received state approval to bring Emergency PCI services to Saratoga Hospital a few years ago, but to sustain it 24/7 and 365 days a year with the highest quality physicians, you would have to have a partnership to keep all those physicians a hundred percent busy.” According to the National Institute of Health’s Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) may be used to relieve symptoms of coronary heart disease or to reduce heart damage during or after a heart attack. “It’s pretty exciting, connecting our interventional cardiology program with Albany Medical Center,” he added. In addition, Calbone said there are a number of specialties that the hospital does not offer and would be difficult to recruit if it weren’t for the partnership. “Treating infectious disease, for example,” he said, “you don’t necessarily need one full time, so we jointly develop strategies with our partner so some of these physicians can move back and forth.” Community need drives that decision-making. Recently, the Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by the Healthy Capital District Initiative showed some startling local numbers, and the hospital has an implementation plan underway to address them. The assessment found that Saratoga County has a higher prevalence of adult asthma, lung cancer, breast cancer, self-inflicted injury, binge-drinking, alcohol-related motor vehicle injury and deaths, and cirrhosis deaths compared to the rest of New York State. Additionally, the suicide mortality rate was significantly higher than the rest of the state, and increased by 53 percent between the 2008-10 study and the 2011-13 study. Chlamydia in women 15 to 44 years of age increased by 50 percent. Lyme disease rates are the 7th highest of all counties, and opiate poisoning increased by 40 percent. “Most people have very little awareness of the size of those numbers,” said Calbone. “We are beginning a physician-managed substance abuse program at our community health center this spring. We’ll have a dedicated full time physician, a part-time psychiatrist and a dedicated program around addiction. Doing something effective goes back to understanding there is a dire community need. We watch these numbers at much more granular levels all the time in our organization.” Saratoga Hospital is the only acute-care facility in Saratoga County, with a medical staff of over 450 physicians and other credentialed providers, and operates several facilities around the region including the Mollie Wilmot Radiation Oncology Center, as well as the hospital’s physician practice, Saratoga Regional Medical Group. For more information, go to www.saratogahospital.org.
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