The Pullman Regional Hospital CEO laid out details Friday about the $40 million hospital project Pullman residents will vote on in April, including the presence of "care coordinators," the advantages of a comprehensive health record system and availability of parking.

Scott Adams spoke to a group of about 20 people at the hospital in the first of two public meetings intended to educate voters about its "Next Era of Excellence" project. The project will be partially paid for by a $29 million bond levy that will be on the ballot for an April 23 special election. The rest of it will be paid for by hospital funds and the PRH Foundation.

Adams said health care in America is often fragmented and forces people to get medical help at multiple locations. Adams said this can be a hindrance to people even in a small community like Pullman.

"Pullman's not a big place, we know that," he said. "The issue we're wanting to address isn't dependent on distance, it's time. And in most people's busy lives, time is the commodity that they're trying to manage and oftentimes, health care gets pushed to the side when time becomes scarce, because it's seen as non-urgent or something I can still do later."

The Next Era of Excellence project will include construction of a three-story, 45,000-square-foot pavilion next to the existing hospital that will help the hospital achieve its goal of becoming a one-stop destination for health care. It would combine services into one building and potentially house a women and children's health center, expanded diagnostic and therapeutic services, a medical residency program and more physicians offices. Adams said the women and children's center is being discussed as an important feature because studies show women make more than 80 percent of health care decisions for their family.

Construction on the pavilion would begin in 2021.

In addition to saving time, he said the public has expressed a need for experts who can help guide them from their first appointment and beyond.

"Care coordination became the centerpiece for what people felt was missing and would make a difference in their health care - not trying to figure it all out yourself, but having someone to guide you," he said.

To illustrate how the one-stop model could help a patient, Adams discussed what a typical day at the hospital may look like for a patient. He said when a person calls to make an appointment, they will be connected to a care coordinator, who will ask the patient questions, determine what services they need and coordinate the appointment. On appointment day, the patient can come by the hospital, drop off their children at an on-site daycare, and see their provider. They will then speak to a financial counselor about out-of-pocket costs and visit with the care coordinator again to help them decide what to do next.

Adams said parking will be a priority when constructing the new pavilion. He said the hospital's goal is to make sure patients and visitors will be able to park close to the entrance.

"It's been made abundantly clear as I've gone around the community that people are concerned about parking," he said. "There's plenty of land for parking. It's going to be how we organize it. It's going to be the key."

The $40 million will also pay for a new medical records system that is intended to connect medical offices and hospitals throughout the region and possibly the state.

Adams used an example from his own life to demonstrate the benefits of a comprehensive medical record system. This winter, he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, leading him to get tests and see specialists in Seattle, Pullman and Spokane. That meant his records were dispersed in four different locations. Adams said the new system will aim to bring all that information to one place for each patient.

"It is possible that you can connect it all," he said.

If the bond is passed, the tax levy rate will be 99 cents per $1,000 - the same rate that was passed for the 2001 bond that funded the construction of the current hospital. The 2001 bond will be retired in 2020, so there will not be an overlap. Adams said the 2001 bond rate has decreased over the years to about one-third of the original tax rate.


Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to akuipers@dnews.com.

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