July 19, 2018

Michele Pilon: Successor Foundation Will Strengthen Transylvania Regional Hospital, Address Community Health Issues

By Michele Pilon
President/CNO, Transylvania Regional Hospital

As I speak with community members, I often run into people who have concerns about our contemplated transaction with HCA Healthcare. I admit that change is rarely easy and uncertainty always causes concern; but I’m seeing what may be the most significant transaction in our region’s healthcare history as more of a partnership that will provide an infusion of benefits, from long-term financial strength to even better care for our health system and Transylvania Regional Hospital.

HCA Healthcare showed interest in Mission Health because of our stellar clinical outcomes, patient experience and proven record of innovation. Few, if any health systems our size have departments entirely devoted to innovation, as we do with the Mission Center for Innovation. In fact, HCA Healthcare came to Transylvania Regional Hospital to review our innovative time and resource management system called Versabadge, which tracks the work of our Emergency Department physicians when they are not actively treating a patient. This includes important and essential tasks like reading X-rays and updating and documenting care in patients’ Electronic Health Records. In rural hospitals like TRH, it’s especially important that the hours devoted to these vital tasks are accurately counted for regulatory and reimbursement purposes.

The Mission Health Board of Directors advised that now is the right time for this transaction because we’re in a particularly good place as a system. Mission Health, from 2010 to 2017, has grown from a 4-facility system to 10, while the number of patients we serve has increased a whopping 122 percent. We’ve also been named a Top 15 Health System nationally by IBM Watson in six out of the last seven years – no small feat. Only one other health system in the county – the Mayo Clinic – has achieved this recognition more times. And, for the fifth consecutive year, TRH has been named a Top 20 Critical Access Hospital by the National Rural Health Association. Both Mission Health and HCA Healthcare are thriving systems and our planned partnership will only strengthen our community.

HCA Healthcare, meanwhile, is well-respected across the country and committed to improving the quality and access to healthcare, as well as serving as a leader in medical research, from reducing intravenous central line blood infections to cancer research. A short list of benefits our purchase by HCA Healthcare would bring include: increased tax dollars for our communities; lower costs when purchasing needed supplies and equipment, programs that encourage patients to be partners in their own care; and most importantly, a new transformational successor Foundation.

Community members who attended our June Mountains of Hope event were some of the first to hear about the benefits of this new foundation, called the Dogwood Health Trust. This new foundation, which will be completely separate from HCA Healthcare, will have the capacity to changes the landscape of our region unlike anything before. Funded by the net proceeds of the sale, the bold mission of the new foundation will be: to dramatically improve the health and wellbeing of all people and communities in western North Carolina. In fact, it will devote the largest amount of dollars per capita in the nation to developing strategies to address what are called the social determinants of health – things like safe and affordable housing, healthy food, high quality education, insurance affordability and more. These determinants govern sixty percent of an individual’s overall health. By addressing these factors, we have the opportunity to make unprecedented improvements in the health of our communities. How many people in western North Carolina do you know that have health needs that simply no one will pay for?

I believe our partnership with HCA Healthcare will not only enable us to continue as one of the nation’s best hospitals and health systems. With increased financial wherewithal and security, our services will also improve, grow, and become even more efficient. I hope that the community will join me in celebrating the realization of some long-held dreams for healthcare in our community.

Michele Pilon, MS, BSN, RN, NE-BC, is the President and CNO of Transylvania Regional Hospital. Her diverse professional experience includes service as a bedside nurse and over a decade as a leader at healthcare institutions in Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina. Ms. Pilon earned a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Ohio’s University of Akron and a Masters in Health Services Administration from the University of St. Francis in Illinois; she is also a Board-Certified Nursing Executive.

To learn more about Transylvania Regional Hospital, please visit trhospital.org.