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Changing Healthcare System Affects Hospitals

By ALLISON NORLIAN

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The future is always unpredictable and the healthcare field is experiencing a decline in admittance volume along with changes that may continue to accelerate.

The changes hospitals have been experiencing are not a new trend. The health care unit has been in decline for years locally and nationwide. Statistics show thirty years ago there were 7,000 hospitals across the country that has decreased to 5,000 today. The reasons behind this slow and steady decrease are advances in medicine, more employers high deductible plans and a lessened number of uninsured people in our region.

We see the changes in hospital procedures. Gall bladder and appendix surgery along with child birth, three hospital procedures that used to keep people within the facility for weeks are now an outpatient surgery. Even the length of time for a patient's stay has changed from an average of seven to five days.

Richard Ketcham, President and CEO of St. Elizabeth Medical Center says the focus is not on hospital's anymore.

"The focus in health care is really changing radically these days and its not all about hospitals. Hospitals a few years ago were about 50% of the healthcare budget. Twenty-five years ago all spending on health care was on hospitals... it's now less then a third."

Ketcham gave the example of open heart surgery. In New York State ten years ago, 20,000 people were receiving the surgery compared to only 10,000 this past year. The huge gap is due to medical developments like stents, and drugs like Lipator.

The idea is that the healthcare trend now has a focus on pre-hospital care to prevent people from ever reaching the point of an ER. Ketcham believes a "sick care system," where people seek treatment and aid only when sick is a thing of the past.

What we may begin to see is hospitals taking care of sicker and sicker people and other resources and facilities for those who do not fit into that category.

Ketcham says, "I think its going to be a very different system then we are used to and it better be because the hospitals and the country will go broke if you take all the baby boomers and put it into... I wouldn't even call it a system... the way we take care of people today. That's why there is such pressure to change."

Another contributing factor to the decline in hospital attendance will be Obama-care as more people receive health insurance.

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