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Patient Advocates are Not the Enemy

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, April 5, 2013

About 85% of the hospitals in Georgia are nonprofits. They are some of the biggest employers and landowners in their local areas, and are tax-exempt because of the role they are supposed to play in helping the poor receive care that they can't necessarily pay for.

"Some do a tremendous job in how they approach the poor in their communities, but not all demonstrate that obligation to their community," she says of Georgia nonprofits.

She feels now is an exciting time in community benefit because the provisions in the PPACA dovetail nicely with the idea of healthcare instead of sick care.

"It's kicking off the external focus hospitals are now beginning to have, and given how seriously they're taking it, it's truly an opportunity to benefit these populations," she says. "With penalties for preventable readmissions and value-based purchasing, it's shifting in such a way that it's all helping us refocus our efforts on the community into keeping folks healthy. This different economic model can work for everyone if it's done well."

Lang came to Piedmont at the request of the chief marketing officer and director of external affairs, who had previously worked at Grady Hospital, Atlanta's safety-net system. "I'll be honest and say I was a little hesitant because I was used to being on the other side of things," she says. "I was afraid I couldn't truly work for the community and I felt strongly my obligation was to the people and I didn't want that to shift. When I realized that the ultimate goal was the same, I decided to try."

Lang's role is not hospital- or even Piedmont-specific. Her job is to analyze policies that promote or hinder progress in the area of healthcare help for the poor, period.

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