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Rice begins early stages of tackling long-range strategies

WILLMAR -- It has been a little more than one month since Rice Memorial Hospital adopted an ambitious new strategic plan, and the hospital is already starting to tackle some of the initiatives.

"There are a number of things we're beginning to work on. The wheels are in motion," Mike Schramm, Rice's chief executive, said Wednesday.

Schramm gave an update to the board of directors Wednesday on what has been happening this past month to begin implementing the strategic plan.

The plan, which will chart the direction of the city-owned hospital over the next few years, calls for beefing up the number of local physicians, particularly in specialties such as cancer care, orthopedic surgery and primary care. It also calls for studying the addition of potential new services and establishing a planning group with the two local clinics to study opportunities for future growth.

Many of the elements in the plan will take some months to be developed. One of the first deadlines, the development of a formal growth plan for the hospital, comes in April.

Schramm said the hospital's executive team will meet next week to begin talking about details and expectations for how the implementation of the strategic plan will be carried out.

Some timelines need to be established as well, he said.

A series of initial meetings also are being set up to form the planning group, which will consist of representatives of Rice Hospital, Family Practice Medical Center and Affiliated Community Medical Centers.

Ultimately, this group will study and make recommendations about future hospital services, with the goal of trying to ensure the priorities for all three providers are aligned.

A form of this joint approach is already being used for selecting an upgraded electronic health record for hospital patient information -- one that would be compatible with the systems installed at ACMC and the family practice clinic and that would allow data to be shared.

Schramm said a hospital team that includes the two clinics will be working on this project over the next three to four months.

"We want to approach it in the right way," he said.

Meanwhile, hospital officials are working as well on another initiative outlined in the strategic plan, that of strengthening emergency services.

Recruitment is under way for more emergency-room physicians, and there have already been some site visits by potential candidates, Schramm said.

"We have a need for additional physicians in the ER," he said.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at http://healthbeat.areavoices.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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