Cory Edmondson, President and CEO of Peterson Health, was the first presenter at last Tuesday’s Business Healthcare Forum hosted by the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce at the Inn of the Hills Conference Center.

“One of the top three things that people want to know about in a community if moving here is the availability of medical care. Access and availability is important. If not available, they have to leave the community for their healthcare,” Edmondson told the group of chamber members and guests.

The other two things that people want to know about the community are the schools and the quality of life issues.

“You have to have the right staff and right physicians and you have to be able to recruit and retain them,” Edmondson added. Right now Peterson Health has 73 physicians or healthcare professionals (advanced practice providers like physician assistants, nurse practitioners, midwives, and other specialty trained medical personnel).

“Peterson Health has 1,200 employees and we pay out $126 million in compensation annually to our employees. We have a 124-bed hospital. Last year we saw 3,200 visits to the emergency department, delivered 500 babies, did 3,200 gastroenterology tests, and did 4,800 cardiac procedures,” Edmondson reported.

He highlighted the ability now for patients to do online self-scheduling for procedures or testing at the hospital and Peterson offers easy access to care.

Peterson Health has 18 “roof-tops” currently in Kerrville and surrounding communities, including the community care clinic, home health, urgent care center, a facility in Bandera, a primary care and physical therapy clinic in Comfort and a new clinic on Hwy. 87 in Fredericksburg.

He pointed out that Peterson Health has “alignment of services” and has received several awards recently highlighting their programs. They now have an acute rehab unit that includes an apartment and a grocery store where patients can stay for a few days and be evaluated as to whether they are ready to go home and be able to care for themselves properly.

Edmondson updated the business community about the facility upgrades in process and future projects. The most important upgrade underway is the new $20.4 million surgery center, which is expected to be completed in April 2024.

The facility will also include a health and wellness center for use by employees, and is a part of the overall recruitment and retention process developed by the hospital.

“We can’t have a healthy community if we are not healthy ourselves, both mentally and physically. Our employees will be able to go there and exercise,” Edmondson said.

On the topic of recruiting and retaining employees the hospital board is looking for ways to improve the work experience at Peterson Health. They purchased 156 acres behind the hospital and have already built additional lighted parking for employees to offset the parking lost in the area where the new surgery center is being built.

Once the new surgery center is completed in the spring, the current ambulatory care center (ACC) will undergo an $8 million renovation to expand their imaging services and physical therapy area.

“We are not stagnant. We are growing,” Edmondson said.

Some of the new services now available at Peterson include the option for patients to have the “INSPIRE” device implanted to treat patients with sleep apnea. Another new service is the ability to do hip replacement surgery using an anterior (front) incision that will allow for faster healing after the hip is replaced.

“We have a special surgery table (HANA) to use for the anterior surgery,” Edmondson said.

He also pointed out that the hospital is able to do many surgeries using robotic technology, which is less invasive and provides for a faster recovery time for the patient.

On the topic of the use of AI (artificial intelligence) in the medical fields, Edmondson said the AI will be used more in reading x-rays and they are looking at other ways that AI can improve the services they provide.

“In the next 20 years there will be a list of jobs that will be replaced by AI,” Edmondson predicted.

How does Peterson continue to grow? Edmondson said their secret is to continue to provide comprehensive services to the 120,000 people who live in the Hill Country and consider Peterson as a “hub of health care.” That will include specialty care and Peterson’s Women’s Associates.

“Peterson is a non-profit hospital that depends on philanthropy. In 2022 we provided $5.3 million in uncompensated health care,” Edmondson said.

Edmondson talked about some of the issues the hospital faces with Medicare, traditional and advantage plans. He said the advantage plans are being heavily marketed to seniors, but advantage plans are very costly in the loss column to the hospital.

Peterson lost $3.7 million in the past year with advantage plans which pay at a lower rate than the traditional Medicare rates, Edmondson explained.

“Non-profit does not mean ‘don’t make a profit.’ We have to make a profit to stay open. We are highly regulated. Everyone who comes through our doors…we have to treat them. Hospitals are like a retired person – we’re on a fixed income too,” Edmondson said.

Edmondson explained that when costs of medical care go up, because of regulations, the cost cannot be passed on in increases to the patients.

“We are getting more patients from Fredericksburg, now that their hospital has sold to the Methodist Hospital system, than we’ve ever seen. More people are choosing to come here,” Edmondson said.

Peterson will celebrate its 75th Anniversary next year. The original hospital opened in 1949 and was built on the property in downtown Kerrville where the Kerrville City Hall is now located.

“We want to have the community help us celebrate next year,” he added.

The hospital’s theme for the 75th Anniversary will be: “Access equals Success, Success equals Good Health and Good Health equals Peterson Health.”

To questions from the audience, Edmondson said one of the recruitment and retention issues Peterson Health is facing, as are many other businesses in the community trying to hire employees, is the childcare issue, or lack of childcare available, in the community.

“It is a challenge. We need more day care facilities in Kerrville,” he said. Another challenge is affordable housing. The board has talked about building their own housing for employees on the large tract of land to the back of the hospital or other options that may become available in the community.

In a video from Congressman Chip Roy that was played at the end of Edmondson’s presentation, Roy praised Peterson for their expanding role in the community.

“I applaud you for what you do. I don’t want insurance companies to run health care. I want health care that is run by doctors and patients. We need to restore personalized health care and not insurance companies in control,” Roy said.

Edmondson shared a power-point of the record revenue in the first quarter of 2023 by the major insurance carriers. UnitedHealth Group, the largest, showed revenue for the three-month period was $20.6 billion. Cigna was $6.6 billion, Blue Cross/Blue Shield was $6.6 billion, CVS Health was $4.2 billion, and Humana was $2.8 billion.


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