Health care summit: Aging, growing population driving rapid health care expansion in NoCo

By: Amy Kegg Thursday April 2, 2015 0 comments Tags: David May, Dr. Jill Hanck, Dr. John Hensing, health care summit, Jason Tacha, Kevin Unger, Loveland, Noel Miles, Tatiana Bailey, Yvonne Myers

LOVELAND - An aging and growing population is driving the rapid expansion of health care facilities in the Northern Colorado region, and the new facilities going online are just trying to keep up with the demand.Banner Health Fort Collins set to open April 6

That message was one delivered Wednesday to about 200 attendees at the "Health Care in Your Future Summit" presented by the Fort Collins Areas Chamber of Commerce.

Representatives from health providers across the region discussed recent or pending expansions in Greeley, Loveland, Fort Collins and Windsor. A partial list includes Kaiser Permanente's plans to open a new facility in north Fort Collins by the end of 2016; Banner Health's new 22-bed hospital and 16-exam room health center in Fort Collins, as well as an addition to their current Skyline campus in Loveland; and UC Health's new Cancer Center Fort Collins along with plans for a free-standing emergency room in south Fort Collins, and a collaboration with Colorado State University and Associates in Family Medicine on a new health facility on campus.

When Chamber President and CEO David May asked panelists if Northern Colorado needs all this expansion, Yvonne Myers with Columbine Health Systems replied, "Every time we build a new location, we fill it. Yes, we need them."

Columbine is planning a 32-patio independent living development in Windsor.

The new developments aren't just to keep up with numbers, but also with general advances in health care.

"A number of projects are also about current spaces not meeting the needs of today's medical office buildings," said Jason Tacha, Kaiser Permanente's executive director of Northern Colorado operations. "Something built 10 years ago has not kept up with how health care is delivered today."

HC2015 logo (1)Kevin Unger, president/CEO at Poudre Valley Hospital and Medical Center of the Rockies, reinforced that idea, noting that technological advancements and medical care practices have shifted to a greater need for out-patient care. "Procedures used to keep patients in the hospital for five days. Now they can go home the same day," he said.

A panel discussing innovation focused on those advancements. Dr. Jill Hanck discussed Banner's eICU/TeleICU technology that allows for a TeleAcute Care team to provide 24-hour computer monitoring of patients, which interacts with their eRecords and has shown to yield significant decreases in days spent in the ICU and mortality rates. This system will be implemented at Banner's new hospital in Fort Collins, where Hanck will serve as medical director.

Noel Miles with Kaiser Behavioral Health described new developments in offering patient care by telephone, by email, real time video consults with specialists and even video visits, where a patient can confer from anywhere with a physician at one of Kaiser's facilities.

The entire panel and audience agreed when Unger urged that more money needs to be invested in behavioral health -- not just in the state -- but across the country.

Keynote speaker Dr. John Hensing and closing keynoter Tatiana Bailey bookended the summit with in-depth discussions on the past and future of the cost of health care in America as it relates to the insurance model.

Hensing, executive VP and CMO at Banner Health, emphasized that 18 percent of the United States' Gross National Product consists of health care costs - a startling increase from the 1960s, when it was just 5.3 percent.

In the 1960s, the system was a fee-per-service basis - one Hensing likened to going to the barber. "The insurance methodology may in fact not be the appropriate approach," he said. "In fact, it gets in the way of the relationship of the physician with the patient.

"With an estimated 100 million Americans buying their own insurance by the end of this decade, we are looking to the individual to take responsibility for their health care, to realize that their behavior impacts costs."

Bailey, executive director of the Southern Colorado Economic Forum,  reinforced the concept, noting that the United States spends more on health care than on education (5.4 percent GNP) and the military (4.7 percent GNP). If the U.S. could reduce health care costs, Bailey said, that money could be redirected to other needs.

She shared statistics showing that -- compared to other nations -- the U.S. consumes one of the highest amounts of fat per day, has the highest obesity rate and also has the highest utilization of health care and the highest costs for health care.

Bailey likened health care consumers' current thought process to that of "an all-you-can-eat buffet - once you purchase it, there's no reason not to over-consume," she said. "We treat it (health care) as a good, a commodity, a widget. (But) is it appropriate to do that?"

While many ideas were shared and suggestions offered, no solid answers were proffered to improve the health care system. But as surprise guest speaker, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis  told the summit attendees events such as the Chamber summit are putting  Northern Colorado "on the map" in leading the way to better health care.

"Innovation drives this discussion forward and encourages collaboration," Polis said.

Amy Kegg

About the Author: Amy Kegg

Amy Kegg is a communications consultant with more than a decade of experience in public  relations. An award-winning journalist and PR pro, Amy holds a master's in Communication from the University of Northern Colorado and a bachelor's in Technical Journalism from Colorado State University. She can be reached at [email protected]