Atrium Health December Board Meeting

News | 2 months ago

Stronger Together and Providing Better Care – FOR ALL

The financial landscape of health care in America is uncertain. But Atrium Health, now part of Advocate Health, is rethinking – and reshaping – that landscape, to provide better care for more people. At its final meeting of 2023, the Atrium Health Board of Commissioners heard how that combination is helping patients across the Southeast – and beyond.

In the year since Atrium Health combined with Advocate Aurora Health to form Advocate Health, the new organization has more than 1,900 initiatives in the works as part of its three-year integration plan and has achieved nearly triple its $60 million goal in synergies in 2023. 

That announcement is how Advocate Health Southeast Region President Kenneth Haynes started his presentation to the Atrium Health Board of Commissioners at its final meeting of the year on December 5. It’s significant in a landscape where health systems across the country are struggling financially. 

“We know that by coming together, we are stronger and better able to weather the storms that the entire health care sector is facing,” Haynes said. Advocate Health would not be the organization it is without the incredible hard work of our teammates and all they do, together, to take care of our communities.”

 Haynes said the goal for 2024 is to achieve an additional $363 million in synergies from a combination of workstreams, including additional contractual savings, clinical revenue growth, portfolio optimization and labor efficiencies. 

It’s these developments that are changing the future of health care and giving Advocate Health – now the third largest nonprofit health system in the country – an opportunity to continue its focus on best meeting patients’ needs by redefining how, when and where care is delivered.

That includes the expansion of Atrium Health’s award-winning Virtual Nursing program to its market in Macon, Georgia, in October. 

Advocate Health Executive Vice President and Chief Nursing Executive Mary Beth Kingston told the board that in just the first month in the emergency department at Atrium Health Navicent – The Medical Center, the team completed more than 300 admissions for patients. They’re also handling discharges. 

“This has helped bridge the gap in care for those patients who are awaiting inpatient beds, improving patient care as well as assisting in their length of stay,” Kingston explained. 

The expansion of virtual nursing programs – including Virtual Nurse Observation – is also one of the tactics Kingston credited with helping improve Atrium Health’s nurse retention. They find it’s also a great incentive for recruiting nurses. 

“Our efforts to recruit and retain the best nurses have led to an 18% decrease in registered nurse vacancies and an 11% decrease in workforce turnover compared to end of year 2022,” Kingston said. 

The organization has hired nearly 900 new registered nurse graduates this year at Atrium Health, Atrium Health Floyd and Atrium Health Navicent – with 300 more expected to start by spring 2024.

Recruitment and retention of nursing staff is a top priority for health systems across the country. Kingston touted Atrium Health’s commitment, which includes a $180 million investment to teammates through a combination of base-pay compensation increases and financial awards, full time recruiters to find talented and dedicated health care professionals, targeted rural recruitment as well as increased onboarding, support and innovative ways to ease the burden on nurses – which includes the virtual nursing programs. 

“The feedback we are receiving from our nurses – and our patients – from our various virtual nursing programs and pilots is extraordinary,” Kingston said. “Virtual nurses are able to observe more patients and provide additional support and an extra set of eyes for nurses on the floor. We’re also finding it’s a terrific way to extend the careers of our veteran nurses.”

Atrium Health December Board Meeting

Health, Hope, and Healing for All 

Atrium Health’s physical footprint continues to grow as progress continues on The Pearl innovation district. Haynes told the board a topping out ceremony for the Center for Education and Research Buildings is planned for this month. The mixed-use development will feature education, retail and other amenities available to the entire community – plus living space set aside for affordable housing – all anchored by Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte.

Speaking of affordable housing, Haynes told the board how Atrium Health is continuing its $10 million commitment to affordable housing initiatives in Charlotte. Haynes and other teammates from Atrium Health recently served alongside hundreds of other community members and leaders at a Habitat for Humanity build that helped build nearly 40 new homes. 

“We know that unstable housing can have a direct and lasting effect on a person’s health,” Haynes said, “so this investment in time and resources will help to enhance the quality of life for our community members, including our own teammates.”

Haynes revealed that overall, Atrium Health’s community benefit total broke records, coming in at $2.9 billion (as did the Advocate Health enterprise with $5.9 billion). 

“Advocate Health returns the equivalent of $16 million per day to communities across the six states it serves in the form of community benefit,” Haynes said, one of the largest investments among health systems in the nation. “We build on our pledges to advance health equity and improve affordability by addressing unique community needs and making financial assistance more accessible.”

It’s that dedication to Atrium Health’s mission to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all, that laid the groundwork for the new book by Advocate Health CEO Eugene A. Woods

Eugene Woods Book

Proceeds from Advocate Health CEO’s book will benefit charitable funds supporting Advocate Health teammates.

 

In Health, Hope, and Healing for All, Woods shares insights from three decades in health care administration about the challenges healthcare systems face and the impact those challenges have on us all. 

Haynes told the board that all proceeds from the sale of the book will go to charitable funds supporting Advocate Health teammates.

Joy in Medicine 

It’s that sort of dedication to and appreciation for teammates that helped Atrium Health to once again earn the Joy in Medicine Gold designation from the American Medical Association, which honors health systems that demonstrate a commitment to preserving the well-being of clinical care team members in combating work-related stress and burnout. Haynes explained that Atrium Health’s “best place to care” initiative seeks to ensure doctors, nurses and other members of the care team aren’t burdened with administrative tasks, so they can focus on treating patients. 

Atrium Health was also named a Best Place to Work for Veterans by Forbes for the fourth time. 

And one year after Atrium Health was named to Newsweek’s annual Top 100 “Most Loved Workplaces” rankings, Advocate Health earned a spot on this year’s list. Haynes told the board that Advocate Health was one of only five health providers nationwide to be named to the prestigious list. 

Newsweek Most Loved Places to Work

Advocate Health was named to Newsweek’s list of America’s Most Loved Workplaces

 

Haynes also said that Advocate Health was named among Modern Healthcare’s “2023 Top Diversity Organizations.” Additionally, Delvecchio Finley, president of Atrium Health Navicent, was named one of 25 individual “Top Diversity Leaders” by the publication.  

Partners for the Community 

Atrium Health is also providing a better place to work for its partners. As the official health care partner for Charlotte FC, Haynes told the board the Club recently celebrated the grand opening of its permanent training facility and business headquarters – Atrium Health Performance Park. The 52,000 square foot facility will include eight soccer fields for sporting and community purposes once fully complete. 

From biomechanics and athletic trainers to sports dieticians and team physicians, Atrium Health Performance Park allows us to provide input on the fitness level of athletes, suggest performance optimization and facilitate injury prevention – providing the highest level of care to the Charlotte FC players,” Haynes said. 

Atrium Health Performance Park

The 52,000 square foot Atrium Health Performance Park will include eight soccer fields for sporting and community purposes once fully complete.

 

But that’s not Atrium Health’s only expansion. Haynes told the board that the new Atrium Health Floyd freestanding emergency department in Chattooga County, Georgia, is the first freestanding emergency department to use a modular construction method, which enabled the facility to be designed, built and opened in about 12 months. In just the first two months of operation, the facility has exceeded projected targets, but most importantly, is making a true impact on the people who live there. 

“The new facility is especially important in this rural community,” Haynes explained. “Before it opened, anyone experiencing a medical emergency in this area faced significant travel times due to a mountainous landscape and rural roads. This is going to save lives.”

Atrium Health Floyd Standing ED

Atrium Health Floyd’s new freestanding emergency department fills a crucial need for emergency care in northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama.

   

Meanwhile, in south Fulton County, Georgia, Atrium Health partnered with Fulton County and Morehouse Healthcare (MHC), the clinical services arm of Morehouse School of Medicine, on the new Morehead Healthcare at East Point clinic, which will help alleviate a critical lack of resources in what’s known as a “health care desert.” Haynes explained that research showed the area has no medical specialists in cardiology, pulmonology and infectious diseases for the area’s 240,000 residents.

The clinic just opened Phase One, but when full implemented, it will have more than 20 exam rooms and operate with extended hours to comprehensive primary care services and will serve as a training facility for Morehouse School of Medicine’s innovative, nationally recognized Community Health Worker (CHW) certification program. The Community Health Worker program trains local residents to serve as health advisors to fellow citizens in the community, helping them address barriers including access to health care, insurance or lack thereof, poor health literacy, transportation and childcare.

Morehouse and Atrium Health Partnership

Atrium Health partnered with Fulton County, Georgia, and Morehouse Healthcare to establish the new Morehouse Healthcare at East Point clinic, which will alleviate a critical lack of health care resources in the area.

Looking Ahead to the Future

Haynes alluded to a growing relationship with Morehouse Healthcare coming in 2024 as well as more growth happening in the next few years. 

He expressed excitement about additional physical growths expected in the new year, including the new Palmetto Tower as well as the surgery suite expansion and renovation at Atrium Health Pineville. The new Charlotte Center for Advanced Radiation, which is being constructed near Atrium Health Levine Cancer is also expected to open. The center will offer two treatment options that are new to the Charlotte area – proton beam therapy, a form of highly precise radiation therapy, and gamma knife radiosurgery, a non-invasive treatment for brain lesions.

But perhaps most importantly, Haynes said he was looking forward to launching The Pearl and recruiting the next generation of health care professionals to help grow this already award-winning team. 

“The seeds we plant today – whether it’s through new advanced facilities, new partnerships or new ways of caring – will have a transforming effect for the future,” Haynes said. “And while our goals are as high as tomorrow’s trees, our ground game today is rooted deeply – and we owe it all to our dedicated teammates.”