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LVHN chief offers prescription for better health care and cost controls

Published On: Dec 24 2013 06:50:48 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 05 2013 06:07:14 AM EST
Ronald Swinfard speaking at community annual meeting on 20-04-13

The leader of the Lehigh Valley Health Network laid out an ambitious, interlocking five-point plan that he believes will both improve care and cut costs.

LVHN president and CEO Ronald Swinfard explained his vision late Wednesday afternoon to about 200 people attending the Community Annual Meeting in the auditorium at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest.

Expanding on the theme "The Future Begins With You," Swinfard began by telling those in attendance health-care is a joint endeavor between people and their providers.


"Exercise, eat right, see your doctor regularly," he said. "The rest is up to us."

He then discussed each of the five priorities, people, service, quality, cost control and growth, that will govern LVHN in the coming year.

In his remarks about the people component, Swinfard said LVHN employees have all been asked to set goals to improve their health.

He also said Lehigh Valley Hospital's fitness center that is planned in downtown Allentown near the hockey arena will not only benefit the community's physical health but its economic health as well.

Speaking about the service priority, Swinfard said LVHN's goal is "making care more convenient," with easier check-in procedures and walk-in centers.

He noted people are asking for private rooms so, LVHN "is taking steps to create as many private rooms as possible."

As for the quality priority, Swinfard noted that LVHN has made U.S. News and World Report's hospital rankings in seven specialties.

And by joining the Allspire alliance in September with six other health networks in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, LVHN is able to meet its priority to control costs while expanding services, Swinfard said.

To meet the final priority, growth, Swinfard listed several projects that will expand LVHN's reach.

They include: a merger with Hazleton General Hospital that could be completed by Jan. 1; the acquisition of Westfield Hospital's assets and transforming them into an orthopedic center set to open Jan. 27; and the opening, in February, of a new health-care center in Northampton County outside Bangor in the renovated former Majestic Athletic Factory Outlet.

Swinfard said that during the fiscal year that ended June 30, LVHN offered $25.8 million in free and reduced-cost care.

After Swinfard concluded his half-hour multi-media presentation, he stressed the challenges LVHN faces as a non-profit, required by law to treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay.

"Our [profit] margin is in the 2-and-a-half percent range," Swinfard told "A for-profit's [margin] is 10 times that."

Swinfard also said he has seen "some increase" in the number of uninsured people coming to LVHN over the last couple of years.

He expressed hope that with more people getting health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, treatment costs being borne by LVHN might be lessened.

The coverage some of the now-uninsured will be getting through the ACA, "may not be fully sufficient [to cover all treatment costs]" Swinfard said, "but it may help us at least a little."