Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to medical care.
That’s one reason why Lumpkin County’s upcoming medical facility will be based on the concept of a “neighborhood hospital,” said Kevin Meek, Executive Vice President of Sitepoint Healthcare Partners.
Large hospitals that offer a wide variety of services do not fit the needs of small communities and are not sustainable, he said.
“It doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be good,” said Meek, who added that long term sustainability is the key to their plans.
A WARM WELCOME
Meek, along with principal healthcare consultant for The Johnson Group Bill Stiles, presented the plan that NGHS (Northeast Georgia Health System) is considering for the new facility at a community forum last week.
NGMC Lumpkin opened at the former Chestatee Regional Hospital site in July 2019, re-establishing vitally needed emergency care and support services, such as imaging, lab and pharmacy, as well as 10 in-patient beds.
“We were welcomed with open arms,” said NGMC Lumpkin Administrator Laye Mitchell, who opened the forum. “There’s been great feedback, and we plan to offer out patient services soon.”
While the current facility expands services, plans are already in the works for the new hospital to be built at the Georgia 400/Highway 60 intersection where NGHS purchased 57 acres along the 400 corridor in 2015.
FOCUSING ON CARE
What NGHS found in results of six community focus groups, 15 one-on-one interview sessions and an online survey here in Lumpkin is “what community members [here] say they are mostly interested in is local access to a hospital with good quality, that offers the most common services they need,” Meek said.
Current plans include a larger ER with all private rooms and an extended stay observation unit within the unit. The observation area would be used for those patients needing multiple tests over an extended period of time, such as chest pain.
It would also include diagnostic testing, imaging, surgical and integrated procedures suites, private inpatient rooms with accommodations for family, a pharmacy and dining cafe. The number of rooms will be determined at a later date, but a ballpark figure of 15-30 beds is being considered, Meek said.
Estimated size of the facility is 45-60,000 square feet on opening day, with on-ground parking available on campus.
There would also be a helipad for transporting trauma patients to NGMC Gainesville, and a medical office building that includes offices for physician specialists and other providers.
The facility is not going to be as large or look like NGMC Braselton, Meek said.
“Growth in Braselton has been really fast. That’s not us. But it will be welcoming, and it will match this community,” Meek said. “And there is plenty of room for expansion when growth occurs.”
As for amenities such as Braselton offers—a courtyard, garden and chapel—these features were paid for by individuals or community groups, said Sean Couch, Director of Public Relations for NGHS.
“When you don’t try to be all things to all people, the care we do provide can be the best care,” Meek said.
“A traffic study is underway, so I don’t have any answers today about traffic lights or access turn lanes,” he said.
Tentative plans are to have four entrances, all off Georgia 400, two for the northbound traffic only and two for both north and southbound.
TECH CARE CHOICES
In addition to the coming new hospital, NGMC Lumpkin is considering offering the community some choices about how they receive their healthcare that involves online visits with your primary care doctor under certain circumstances or with specialists, and online at-home support after surgery.
“Technology has the capacity to support these services now,” said The Johnson Group Director of Strategy and Research Bill Stiles, “but the choice is up to you.”
Anyone who already uses NGHS’s MyChart can take advantage of e-visits now for colds and flu symptoms. Patients can avoid waiting for an appointment—response can be expected within 24 hours—and remain in the comfort of their home to be diagnosed and receive prescriptions.
The cost of an e-visit is $40, and is not yet covered by Medicare or many private insurers.
“I predict insurance and Medicare will cover e-visits soon,” Stiles said.
If it is accepted by your insurer, the co-pay may be different as well. Check with your provider.
NGHS is also considering is using technology for visits with specialists.
When doctors refer patients to neurologists, pulmonologists and other specialists, it often takes weeks or months to get an appointment. Through a video visit, patients may be able to be seen in less than five days, Stiles said.
Patients would be instructed to go to the NGMC campus where their vitals would be taken. They would then “meet” with the specialist via live video in a private room.
For after-surgery rehabilitation, instead of driving to the rehab facility, patients would be able to be equipped with a smart device such as Fitbit or Apple Watch to monitor progress in following the prescribed rehab routine. A person in the doctor’s office would help the patient to set up the device and instruct them in its use.
Conversations with your physical therapist, via call, text or video, take place as needed.
At the end of the presentation the 155 members of the audience were given feedback forms asking how likely they would be to use these new services.
“These community forums and focus groups are very important, because we get to hear what the community wants and will use—and we hear that feedback directly from them,” Couch said. “What we heard back in 2018 helped shape what we offer at NGMC Lumpkin today, and what we’re hearing this week will help shape what the future NGMC Lumpkin campus offers when it opens in fall 2021.”