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The Future of Healthcare, Pt. 3

Nov 20, 2015 01:39PM ● By MED Magazine

In the first two parts of our Future of Healthcare series, we talked to the heads of large and small area health systems about challenges and opportunities for their organizations and for the nation as the American healthcare system continues to evolve over the coming decade.

In this third and final part of our series, we bring you their thoughts on what they see as unique considerations not only for their own organizations but for providers across MED’s upper Midwest coverage area.

Paul Hanson, President, Sanford USD Medical Center

The geographic size of Sanford’s footprint can be a challenge.  Larger, metro-based systems may have a 15- to 25-mile radius around their core services with a highly concentrated population base.  By contrast, our system delivers services across one of the largest contiguous areas of the country.  Communication, standardization and optimization are challenges that we work on daily. Engaging the medical staff and allocating capital are keys to future success.

Brent Phillips, President and CEO, Regional Health

Recruiting and retaining physicians and caregivers can be challenging. We have a history of being a progressive region in terms of health care delivery in the upper Midwest, but I would say recruitment is our biggest challenge and opportunity.

The current healthcare model must change. It needs to have a much more balanced focus that includes physician and caregiver engagement, better patient and family experiences, a culture of safety and quality care, and greater community and financial stewardship. We need focus on these key areas. As healthcare providers, we are significant shareholders in our communities. We have responsibilities not only in our healthcare systems, but in the greater community as well.

Fred Slunecka, COO, Avera Health

In our specific region, the small size of rural hospitals and their fragility is extraordinary. Bundled payments could have a significant impact on them. Additionally, it’s hard to recruit physicians and other healthcare employees to rural communities, and our rural workforce continues to shrink.

At Avera, we are turning to technology as a solution. Telemedicine seems to be coming into its own for a variety of reasons. Consumers have grown accustomed to conducting many interactions remotely and online, so why not get your healthcare that way? The use of telemedicine has helped in recruiting and retaining a workforce in rural areas, allowing physicians to have greater balance and an expanded network of support.  We can keep healthcare local by using Avera eCARE, and that’s important to our region.

Jason Merkley, CEO, Brookings Health System

I am not sure if this is a unique challenge of ours in the upper Midwest or not; however, I will say with unemployment rates dropping, the availability of a workforce to fill the vacancies within our organizations becomes increasingly more difficult every day. While we face a nation-wide shortage of physicians and nurses, recruiting professionals to work and live in rural areas is much more difficult than our metropolitan counterparts.


Hiring ancillary and non-professional staff, from certified nursing assistants to housekeepers and dietary aides, is probably as challenging because we live in an area where there are more job opportunities than people. We are going to have to find creative ways of competing for human resources and implement a strategy that develops the personnel necessary to functionally staff our organizations in the future.


Jill Fuller, President and CEO, Prairie Lakes Healthcare System


Meaningful Use has caused us to change our business processes more than it is changing the way we provide care.  We have gained some efficiencies but we are also less efficient in many areas as a result.  The added requirements related to security will likely have the biggest impact on our industry – along with the added risks associated with protecting data in an electronic format.


MED plans to run additional Future of Healthcare articles in the coming months featuring leaders from other types of healthcare organizations. Do you have ideas for who you would like to see us talk to? Send us an email at [email protected].

Paul Hanson

Brent Phillips


Fred Slunecka


Jason Merkley


Jill Fuller