Texas County Memorial Hospital launched a patient portal last week that allows clients to make an appointment, pay bills, view records and contact providers at the hospital's clinics. 

Texas County Memorial Hospital clinic patients will have access to healthcare services via a new patient portal that launched this week, TCMH board members heard at their monthly meeting.

The web-based program, which can be accessed through the hospitals website, was required to meet ‘Stage 2 Meaningful Use’ guidelines set by the federal government. Financial incentives are provided to healthcare providers that meet federal mandates for electronic medical records.

The portal allows patients to see information regarding exams with healthcare providers at TCMH. Clinic bills can be paid through the portal. Immunization records can be printed. Medication refills can be requested. Patients can contact clinic staff and appointments can be made.

“Our patients will be able to direct questions to their healthcare provider through the portal,” said Wes Murray, TCMH chief executive officer. “The questions will go to the physician or mid-level provider’s nurse in the form of an e-mail.”

Patients that visit a TCMH clinic will be given a personal identification number to set up a personal account. Patients may also contact the clinic and request a PIN before coming in to the clinic. The patient portal is currently only for TCMH clinic patients. Hospital records are not accessible via the portal.

An additional feature of the portal is that an entire family can be set up on one portal account. For example, a parent can manage all children that are TCMH patients under one account.

The portal is not optimized for mobile devices, but all features of it are accessible on mobile devices. The TCMH information systems department expects that mobile optimization will come to the site in the future.

“I think this is a great benefit to our patients,” said Dr. Schaun Flaim, chief of the TCMH medical staff. “I think this will increase efficiency in communicating with our patients.”

MAXIMIZING SPACE

TCMH continues to look at ways to maximize clinic space and to meet area healthcare needs. The recent hospital remodeling project has freed up space that can be used for a surgical suite containing office, exam and reception rooms.

“We have space in the TCMH Medical Complex here in Houston that does not receive the higher ‘rural health clinic’ reimbursement,” Murray said.

In the upcoming months, the general surgery suite in the TCMH Medical Complex will be moved to an area inside the hospital. The move will open up additional offices and exam rooms for patients and mid-level providers to extend healthcare services in the TCMH Medical Complex.

According to Murray, part of the extension of services will include walk-in clinic that patients will be able to access without an appointment. The walk-in clinic will be staffed by mid-level providers.

“Utilizing our clinic space to provide healthcare without an appointment will make the clinic space more productive and help more patients get established with TCMH providers,” Murray said.

Walk-in clinic services are still in the planning stages, but Murray hopes that Debra Buckle, an established family nurse practitioner with TCMH, and Chip Lange, a recently hired physician’s assistant, will be able to staff the clinic.

“This will help patients that have non-emergency needs that cannot get in to see a doctor,” Murray said. “They will be able to see someone in the clinic rather than go to the ER.”

RECRUITING CONTINUES AND MORE

TCMH also continues recruiting efforts for additional obstetrics healthcare providers and a general surgeon.

“We recently interviewed a certified nurse midwife and an OB/GYN specialist,” Murray said. “We have a general surgeon visiting next week, and we are working on additional dates to bring in other providers for interview in March.”

Also at the meeting, TCMH board members unanimously approved a temporary easement to the City of Licking in front of the TCMH Family Clinic in Licking.

The city has grant funds available to repair and widen sidewalks in the city. Sidewalks will be handicapped accessible when the project is complete. The easement is granted for 90 days from the beginning of the sidewalk construction project.

Murray also presented information to the board members about Missouri Senate Bill 763 and House Bill 1616, which would amend current laws that do not allow county hospitals to talk with each other about certain aspects of daily operations or provide services across county lines.

“This bill would allow county hospitals to combine efforts to save money,” Murray said.

The bills were specifically crafted to benefit hospitals in central Missouri that are looking for ways to continue to provide healthcare in their community without losing their independence.

“These bills could have benefits to all county hospitals in our state,” Murray said.

FINANCES IN BLACK

In financial report, Linda Pamperien, TCMH chief financial officer, explained that belt-tightening at the hospital over the past six months has had a positive effect on the bottom line. In January hospital volumes were down and expenses were up slightly, but the hospital eked out a positive bottom line of $40,658.13, starting the facility off in the black for the year.

“We have been committed to reducing expenses at TCMH, and it is paying off,” Pamperien said.

Overall employee hours were down at the hospital in 2013 by 25,000 hours, an equivalent of 12.6 full-time employees. The reduction in hours saved the hospital $214,000 in payroll expense in 2014.

“We did not have any layoffs, and some jobs lost due to attrition have been absorbed by the affected department,” Pamperien said.

Pamperien commended the hospital’s department managers and the employees that have played a role in taking on additional responsibilities and managing their time efficiently.

“We will continue to do whatever we can to save funds and to operate as efficiently as possible,” Pamperien explained.

Present at the meeting were Murray; Pamperien; Flaim; DorettaTodd-Willis, chief nursing officer; Joleen Senter Durham, public relations director; Dr. John Duff; and board members Omanez Fockler, Dr. Jim Perry, DO, Janet Wiseman, Mark Hampton and Russell Gaither.

The next meeting of the TCMH board of trustees is noon Tuesday, March 25, in the hospital board room.

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