The community hospital C-suite answers: What's the biggest question you face?

Chief executives from three community hospitals recently talked about their unique challenges and circumstances during a panel titled, "The biggest questions America's community hospitals face right now." The session was part of Becker's Community Hospitals Virtual Forum on Oct. 12.

The executives were:

  • Robert Allen, senior vice president and COO of Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare 
  • Kevin Stansbury, CEO of Lincoln Community Hospital in Hugo, Colo.
  • Kari Obaugh Lightner, COO of Bath Community Hospital in Hot Springs, Va.

Here is an excerpt from the conversation, lightly edited for clarity. To view the full session on demand, click here.

Question: What are some of the biggest questions community hospitals face right now?

Kevin Stansbury: We're worried about reimbursement. We're worried about what's happening with Medicare rules. We're worried about Medicaid and state budgets with the pandemic. And we're also very concerned about the way commercial insurance is being administered. I'll be frank, we're fighting with insurance companies on a regular basis about them encouraging patients to seek care in the city where there's a perceived lower cost of care when we can prove demonstrably that our charges are lower here in rural Colorado than they are in the city. 

Kari Obaugh Lightner: Our insurance carrier for our employees is encouraging our employees to seek care at different locations too. That's almost infuriating, right? It's the nature of the beast right now, but certainly telling in regard to the level of frustration that we experience so often, and it definitely is relatable to what Kevin is dealing with. But apart from that, we have to continue to address decreasing volumes. We have to get at why that is happening. Is it happening because of migration or is our population truly decreasing? 

Robert Allen: Wow, all of these sounds so familiar. I would add a slightly different perspective, which I suspect will ring true to my colleagues. I think of this conversation in the context of, how do we maintain relevance and how do we maintain influence? There is so much effort, resources and energy going into disrupting the legacy health systems. We have to think differently than we have in the past and start to consider how we can change the formula.

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