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Commentary: Health care for the future in our community

Briana Sanchez / Tribune Rice Memorial Hospital, August 2, 2016. This image was created by a series of images.

When a family or individual walks into a clinic or hospital, there are a lot of questions that race through their minds. Will my loved one get the best care? Will the doctors and other health care providers be available to answer my questions? Will my insurance cover this visit? For many, these questions cause anxiety and frustration. That's why health care is not just complicated, it is personal.

It is the personal aspect of health care that's driving changes in how and where people receive care.

New technologies are driving innovative care approaches giving patients and their families more access to information closer to home.

Community health and wellness programs are getting people moving and taking more responsibility for their care long before they visit their local doctor.

The changing demographics of our communities are requiring us to prepare for residents who are living longer and may need more care. These factors make it more important than ever for physicians and other health care providers to take additional steps to continue providing high-quality, affordable care.

In our region, patients have several high-quality health care options.

Rice Memorial is a publicly owned hospital that serves as an important pillar in the Willmar community.

The physicians at ACMC Health provide superb care in Willmar, Benson, Granite Falls, Litchfield, Marshall, New London, Redwood Falls and surrounding communities.

CentraCare Health is a committed partner working to strengthen rural health care in Minnesota. Individually, we can continue to provide care in the region, but collectively we can do so much more.

That's why physicians at ACMC Health and the board of directors at Rice Memorial Hospital have agreed to enter formal discussions with CentraCare Health regarding the creation of a new regional health system to serve west central and southwest Minnesota.

Rice Memorial Hospital and ACMC Health have a long-standing commitment to delivering compassionate, quality care to the region. It is this commitment to the community and an effort to consciously improve care delivery that has led us to a path of potential partnership with CentraCare. Together, we have a unique opportunity to continue and enhance the quality care we deliver to our patients.

ACMC Health, Rice Memorial Hospital and CentraCare Health share the same values, geographies and many patients. All three organizations are committed to working collaboratively every day to improve health care and ensure all patients are treated with kindness, respect and dignity.

This partnership brings the combined talents and skills of all three entities to better serve our patients and prepare for the ever-changing health care environment. This means your doctors will be more connected and have greater resources to better serve you.

The goal of this new system is to enhance patient access to comprehensive, high-quality and affordable care close to home. It allows each organization to better address the needs of our changing population and public policy changes. It assures physicians will have access to enhanced systems of care to keep patients close to home. It ensures decisions regarding health care, hospitals and clinics are made locally.

This is good for our region and patients.

While we've just started our conversations, we hope you share in our excitement and the potential to do something truly innovative to ensure health care in rural communities remains locally controlled with patients at the center.

Michael Schramm is chief executive officer of Rice Memorial Hospital and Cindy Firkins Smith, M.D., is president and cheif executive officer of ACMC Health.