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UMMC’s Suntha argues for engagement in community beyond hospital walls

Mohan Suntha

Mohan Suntha

Maryland hospitals should expand beyond the walls of their institutions to provide a better quality of care, the president of the University of Maryland Medical Center said Tuesday.

Dr. Mohan Suntha said UMMC aims to be an anchor institution in Baltimore.

“We also need to ensure that we are driving the conversation of improving the health of our communities,” Suntha said in a speech at the BWI Business Partnership’s Signature Breakfast Series. “We are located in west Baltimore. We have a fundamental commitment to the community that we serve.”

That mindset has been hardened by Maryland’s hospital reimbursement system, which gives hospitals global budgets rather than reimbursing hospitals per visit or service.

“The reimbursement system in our state demands that we take on this challenge of reforming health care in a very unique way,” Suntha said. “I am going to argue that we have been challenged to move forward faster, in this transformation of health care, than any other state in the country.”

The system encourages hospitals to look into the surrounding community and determine what’s causing issues that result in crowded hospital waiting rooms, such as kids with asthma, and to help better manage the issues, Suntha said.

The system also allows hospitals to take a more quantitative look at the quality of care they provide, something that has traditionally been more subjective, he added.

“Think about a disease like diabetes or hypertension,” he said. “If we connect with our communities in a more meaningful way and help manage people with those chronic diseases on an outpatient basis, we can actually look at our admission rates for those kinds of diagnoses and hopefully see them decrease.”

Suntha also said that quality of care has driven the national conversation about health care, regardless of politics.

“I don’t care what your politics are,” he said. “Whether you’re a fan of the ACA or not, or whether you’re a fan of the American Health Care Act, what we understand is these are all attempts to drive our country into a conversation about transforming health care and moving our health care system to a value system.”

The medical center’s systems quality can extend beyond Baltimore too, Suntha said, thanks to the University of Maryland Medical System’s statewide reach.

“It is our fundamental belief that … we are the state’s resource for health care,” he said.

Part of that system includes the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, which takes patients from all over the state, whether by ambulance or helicopter.

“We are national thought leaders in how we treat the critically ill,” Suntha said. “The whole idea is to take the knowledge base that we have and spread those resources around the state.”

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