Olympic Medical Center approves contract with telecardiology service

Official says goal is to treat more patients at hospital

PORT ANGELES — The Olympic Medical Center board approved a one-year contract with Eagle Telemedicine that will expand the hospital’s capacity to deliver cardiac care to patients with a telecardiology service.

Chief Operating Officer Ryan Combs said the $348,150 agreement, approved Wednesday, would enable more patients to remain at OMC, which could bill for those services rather than losing patients and revenue to other hospitals.

“Many of these cardiac patients today are transferred to other facilities. We don’t treat them here,” Combs said.

Commissioner Thom Hightower said he was concerned about the cost of the telecardiology service and whether or not it would pay for itself.

“From a business standpoint, investing a third of a million dollars the first year, how is this going to work for the hospital given the current financial stresses we’re under?” Hightower asked.

Chief Executive Officer Darryl Wolfe said the agreement would benefit both patients and OMC.

“The ability to keep them here rather than transfer them is good for patients because they stay in the area,” Wolfe said. “You’re able to capture a new level of cardiac care — we estimate it will be about a minimum of $1 million, possibly more, so that would more than cover the cost.”

The telecardiology service will provide OMC and patients with round-the clock access to cardiologists who will work with its hospitalists in diagnosis, care delivery and interpreting electrocardiogram results.

According to Eagle Telemedicine’s website, its cardiologists can respond in less than 15 minutes.

It will enable OMC to offer more robust cardiac care than it can currently afford, Wolfe said.

“For us to have a 24/7, 365 cardiology program would require several more cardiologists that all make north of $400,000 per year,” he said. “For lots of reasons, we think this is will put us ahead.”

Wolfe said he would report back to the board with an update on the telecardiology program once it is operating.

“The better we can treat people here and keep them in the community, the better it is all the way around,” Hightower said.

Staffing shortages that have contributed to a decrease in the number of surgeries, radiation oncology procedures and inpatient days have had a negative impact on OMC’s bottom line this year, Chief Financial Officer Lorraine Cannon said.

OMC lost $3.5 million in April because of more than $2 million in contractual allowances and almost $1 million more in bad debt than was budgeted, plus the percentage of patients on Medicare has become increasingly larger, Cannon said. That was about $1.6 million more than what had been budgeted.

An error in a bank debt calculation of $500,000 that should have been reported in March added to the April losses, she said.

Cannon said OMC will be able to able to recapture some revenue with the resolution of a billing dispute with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“We finally got CMS to recognize it and make the adjustment,” Cannon said. “We have re-billed over 7,500 charts that were eligible for it, and it’s resulted in about $1.3 million in cash.”

OMC will also start receiving funds from the state’s Hospital Safety Net Assessment Program this month.

OMC lost $8.762 million through April compared with $11.229 million in the first four months of 2023.

Matt Ellsworth, executive director of the Association of Washington Public Hospital Districts, reviewed with commissioners guidelines for public officials’ election activities. OMC has placed a levy lid lift on the Aug. 6 primary election ballot that asks registered voters living in Clallam County Public Hospital District No. 2 to approve an increase from the current 31 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to 75 cents per $1,000.

Ellis emphasized the necessity of complying with state law regarding the use of public funds and resources in campaign activities, what public officials and staff can and can’t say and where they can say it, and the kinds of activities that are allowed and those that are prohibited.

He also made recommendations for framing and delivering messages that engage and inform voters but don’t cross the line into advocacy or persuasion, which aren’t allowed.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached by email at paula.hunt@peninsulanews.us.

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