Dear Region 2:
If anyone would ask me if I like my job, I would have to say, “No!” Why would I say such a thing? Because, I would be lying if I didn’t say, “I LOVE my job!” While keeping up with the technicalities of the 1115 Healthcare Transformation Waiver can be rather arduous at times and the reporting process somewhat grueling, the benefits and outcomes of the waiver projects are truly beginning to positively impact healthcare delivery for many of our region’s most vulnerable individuals. And, I also LOVE my job because of the people in the region that my team and I support each and every day in our role as anchor–dedicated providers and community stakeholders who are eager to work together to find innovative solutions to real, concrete needs. And, rightfully so.
Of the nearly 1.5 million individuals residing within the 16-counties that comprise Region 2, 25% of the population is uninsured and another 27% are Medicaid or Medicaid/Medicare (dual eligible) recipients. The region covers some 14,500 square miles, and much of its densely rural areas are often referred to as “Deep East Texas.” While a large portion of Region 2 is widely known for picturesque images of tall Pines, blooming Dogwood trees and freshwater lakes, the fact remains that more than 50% of the geography is designated as a Health Professional Shortage Area in primary care and mental health services. These statistics amplify the importance of waiver projects and reconfirms why performing providers within our Regional Health Partnership continue to be focused on executing well-defined, purposefully-crafted, measurable outcomes.
In traveling extensively through the region since the inception of the waiver, many similar themes have surfaced. Regardless if visiting with providers practicing in more populous counties, like Galveston or Jefferson, or trying to understand challenges from practitioners in more rural parts, like Angelina or San Augustine County, the need for better coordinated healthcare is always at the top of the “wish list.” One might think that coordinating care for people with complex, chronic conditions isn’t as difficult of a process in more metropolitan markets; but, while admittedly easier, coordination is only as successful as the system put in place. This was one of the most obvious opportunities identified in the comprehensive Region 2 Community Needs Assessment, and a key strategic focus for many regional providers like Beaumont-based, Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas. During the planning process, Baptist leadership quickly committed to utilizing the waiver as a means to identify, evaluate, prioritize various processes to help their most at-risk patients better navigate the healthcare system. Part of this commitment was to hire, train and deploy patient navigators: individuals who are knowledgeable about the community and its resources, sensitive to the cultural diversity of the individuals they support and capable of shepherding patients throughout the continuum of care. As a result of Baptist’s foresight to the improvement of clinical outcomes through better coordinated care, and, by their support of the 1115 Healthcare Transformation Waiver, two (2) Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) projects were designed to turn the vision into reality. Within the projects, a variety of milestones and metrics were carefully crafted over a four-year period, including measures to educate and encourage targeted patients to properly utilize the appropriate healthcare channels (right care, right place, right time). As reported in the Beaumont Enterprise in November 2014 (http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/article/Local-navigators-steer-patients-toward-better-5920009.php#photo-7196542), individuals like Anthony Joseph, a Baptist Beaumont patient and triple-bypass survivor, have benefited from the waiver through the creation of the Baptist Smart Health Clinic and the Baptist Patient Navigation Program, both of which emphasize patient-centered care.
So, I am proud to report that it’s stories like this that provide a tangible look at the impact the waiver is making in our region and across the state each and every day. And, furthermore, it’s stories like this that make me say, “I LOVE my job!”