Business Perspective: Asante Ashland Community Hospital


In August 2013 Ashland Community Hospital was incorporated into the Asante group becoming Asante Ashland Community Hospital. Sheila Clough, President and Chief Operating Officer for Howard Young Health Care in Woodruff, Wisconsin was hired as the newly merged hospital’s CEO bringing years of hospital administration experience with her. 
The Ashland Chamber of Commerce had the opportunity to sit down with Sheila and talk about Asante Ashland Community Hospital and her overall look at healthcare from the local, state and federal level.

Chamber- It’s been almost a year since you were brought on as CEO, what would you like to ask of the residents of Ashland?

Sheila first and foremost commented that she would like to thank the community and showcase her gratitude for their support throughout the merger and for their continued support as the hospital continues to stabilize.  The community of Ashland has gone above and beyond what a normal community would do; they came together as a community to create a positive solution, and for that, she says thank you.

She would also like to share that the hospital still needs support as they step into this new and exciting phase. The hospital is taking on multi-level partnerships throughout the community with civic groups, businesses and care facilities and they continue to need support of the local citizenry. 

Up next for Asante Ashland Community Hospital is to shift away from the current health care model of “volume” (defined as the more patients a hospital sees the more successful they are) to a model of “value” (defined as a combination of quality, service, affordability and access to care).

“Last fall, I described Ashland Community Hospital as a ship. With Asante stepping in, it now had the wind in its sails and when I came on board, the ship had its captain. From there we worked to set our direction.”

In the course of setting that direction, they have now created a strategic plan which acts as a road map they can start progressing through and they are already seeing progress from all areas and most significantly the financial side.  Asante Ashland Community Hospital’s newest areas of focus will be in Women's Health Needs, Surgical Services, Organizational Alignment and Healthcare Transformation from volume to value.

Chamber- What are your thoughts on healthcare as a whole, and what about Ashland?

From the national perspective, there are a lot of different components that all come to play, underscoring that we as a country need a shift. These outside forces are urging healthcare to change.  Before the Affordable Care Act, 32 million people did not have access to healthcare. Partnering that with federal expenditures for healthcare accounting for approximately 25% of the country’s GDP, something needed to change. The State budgets are challenged by the rising cost of healthcare as well and they were faced with needing to determine if they could or should tax their citizens to keep up.  Additionally, as a country, we have tied healthcare benefits to employment and the cost of employment was rising.  When the Affordable Care Act passed, it was the biggest piece of healthcare legislation that had passed since 1965. While the Affordable Care Act is most closely linked with insurance, it is forcing us as a country to look at the costs and model of healthcare differently.  Asante Ashland Community Hospital gets to be a part of that changing model.

Chamber- As we progress through these new changes, how would you like the community of Ashland to support Asante Ashland Community Hospital?

As Asante Ashland Community Hospital works through the changing healthcare climate, they will be looking at new models of providing care.  For instance they will be working towards a Patient Centered Medical Home where caregivers, physicians, nurses, will all be wrapped around the care of the patient. The patient’s team will help get to the root cause of the problem and work to monitor and change behavior.  

Secondly, in moving toward a more patient centered, prevention based model, it is important to recognize that Acute Care (hospital care) is not going away. The challenge is in making it more affective by creating community partners and partners within the medical field for clinical integration and reduced admissions by providing and focusing on preventative care.

A great example of these changes is the Epic system which Asante Ashland Community Hospital committed to and invested in. “Technology is the foundation of changing and cutting costs in our healthcare systems.” Epic will make patient information more readily available and decrease redundancies in patient care. It will also empower patients with “MyChart” enabling their records to be easily accessed at each state of their care.

Chamber- How do you think the community of Ashland will embrace these new changes at the hospital?
“Ashland is receptive to innovation, it has a culture of innovation and is willing to push limits. Our community has a unique desire to lead and there is absolutely no reason why Ashland cannot be a pilot for these new programs.”

Asante Ashland Community Hospital

Photo 1 courtesy Asante.
Photo 2 by Judith Pavlik

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