SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — After eight years as Barton Health’s chief medical officer, Dr. Clint Purvance officially stepped into his new role in November as president and chief executive officer of South Lake Tahoe’s health care provider.
Purvance takes over as Barton moves in a new direction — to a health care model that emphasizes preventative treatment. The fresh approach falls in line with many goals of the Affordable Care Act. Purvance said the new model is important for Barton Health to reduce overall costs. In-patient care carries a higher price tag than preventative health care measures.
Like most health care providers across the nation, the Affordable Care Act presents challenges for Barton Health, according to Purvance. The federal health care act requires all uninsured citizens to purchase an insurance plan on a national or state exchange market. However, premiums for some plans are set to rise on average of 7.5 percent in 2016. California, which has its own exchange market, expects a 4 percent increase in premiums.
“The problem with the Affordable Care Act is that it’s not affordable,” Purvance said, noting those issues need to be addressed through reforms at the federal level.
“The government is shifting more and more costs to the consumer, whether they are a Medicare or Medi-Cal patient or you are in the exchange, and that means a higher deductible. Most Americans don’t have $5,000 that they’re holding in the bank in case they break their leg or have major trauma.”
Purvance said he hopes advocacy and partnerships at both federal and state levels will encourage more reform to the health care act, which currently reduces reimbursements for services.
“The problem is if you cut too many payments to hospitals like Barton, then we actually have to shrink in order to survive,” Purvance said. “That doesn’t meet the goals of the Affordable Care Act, which is to expand services and keep patients healthy.”
Unlike many hospital administrators, Purvance comes to his new position with experience as a medical practitioner, something he said is a benefit because he already knows the landscape.
He started at Barton as an emergency room doctor in 1999, and acted as chief medical officer for eight years. He graduated from University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno, and completed his emergency medical residency at the University of Michigan.
During his tenure, Purvance said he focused on building an efficient trauma center and engaging outside partners, like University of California, Davis Medical Center in Sacramento and Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno.
Those efforts designated Barton Memorial Hospital as a Level 3 trauma center, which allowed for expanded emergency medical services.
“We know that if we have a system-wide approach to the care of trauma patients, that saves lives and improves the overall outcome of the patients,” Purvance said.
Examples of Barton moving toward preventative outpatient care includes additions of specialty services over the past few years, including urology, psychiatry, and cardiology. Barton Health will incorporate neurosurgery into its services next year.
Barton Health also recently purchased a nearly 5,000-square-foot building next to its community health center to house specialty services. The community health center itself provides both specialty and primary care to the entire community. For those who don’t have insurance, costs are based on a sliding scale depending on family income. Purvance said the community health center pays for itself.
Barton Health is seeing growth in other areas as well. The Robert Maloff Center of Excellence, scheduled to break ground in 2016, will expand Barton Health’s orthopedic, sports, performance and wellness services.
South Lake Tahoe resident Lisa Maloff, the widow of Robert Maloff, donated $10 million to Barton to help construct the center.
Purvance said the center will enhance Barton Health’s already nationally recognized orthopedics services, as well as focus on health and wellness programs.
Barton Health additionally utilizes technology including telemedicine consultations for treatments it cannot offer onsite. Telemedicine uses technology and information technology such as computer platforms, which allow doctors to provide medical diagnosis and advice remotely.
“Telemedicine allows us to have a real-time, face-to-face examination of a patient right here in South Lake Tahoe with providers through California that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to in town,” Purvance said.
Purvance replaces outgoing CEO John G. Williams, who is retiring at the end of the year.
“It has been a pleasure working with Clint as the chief medical officer during my tenure here,” Williams said in a letter to Barton staff and the community. “He was instrumental in improving our quality and patient safety ratings as well as helping Barton achieve the recent joint commission recognition as a top performer.
“Clint’s integrity, adaptability, and core belief that patients are a top priority ensure he is more than qualified to lead the organization in a new and exciting direction. I know Clint is prepared to step into his new leadership role and I am confident that Barton Health staff, physicians, patients, and community are in the best hands.”