4 questions with Palo Alto County Health System CEO Desiree Einsweiler

Palo Alto County Health System CEO Desiree Einsweiler knows about the challenges of rural healthcare, but in spite of it all, she believes change in healthcare today makes it an exciting place to be.

Ms. Einsweiler was named to Becker's list of "50 rural CEOs to know" in 2014 and 2015. She was also one of Becker's "130 women hospital and health system leaders to know" in 2013 and 2014. She has served as CEO since 2012.

Palo Alto County Health System, based in Emmetsburg, Iowa, is a 25-bed critical access hospital that also houses three medical clinics, a long-term care facility, an independent senior living community and county ambulance and emergency services. Emmetsburg, a city of approximately 3,800, lies 160 miles from Des Moines.

Here Ms. Einsweiler discusses her market, worries and the news story that caught her eye.

Question: What is interesting about your market?

Desiree Einsweiler: We are the healthcare provider for our county, so we are working on our population health approach and moving our clinic toward a medical home model to meet not just the medical needs of our patients, but the all-encompassing health needs of our friends and neighbors.

For example, in an effort to enhance our services, we are adding telemedicine. We are also implementing a new EHR across our entire facility. We are doing this in a rural market where physician recruitment is difficult, so it keeps us on our toes.

Q: What worries you?

DE: I worry about how we are going to make the shift from volume to value. Our number one priority is providing high-quality patient care. It always has and always will be. However, now we have to learn to do so in a new way and under a new model. This means we have to change our thoughts and actions. Anyone who has ever tried to break a bad habit knows how difficult that can be.

Q: What inspires you?

DE: Although the changes are stressful, healthcare truly is an exciting place. We are seeing more changes than ever before and it isn't just change for the sake of change. It is change so we can keep people healthier and reduce the financial burden of healthcare on society.

Q: What news story or event in healthcare have you been most interested in this past month?

DE: I am very interested in Senator Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) proposal of the Rural Emergency Acute Care Hospital (REACH) Act. This could change the entire concept of how healthcare is structured, specifically in rural environments.

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