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Frock addresses state hospital association

Charles T. Frock

FirstHealth of the Carolinas CEO Charles T. Frock spoke on hospitals and how they deal with the uninsured during the opening session of the Winter Membership Meeting of the North Carolina Hospital Association (NCHA).

The NCHA is a statewide association representing 135 hospitals and health networks, and Frock is its chairman this year. Among those attending the Winter Membership Meeting, which was held Feb. 21-22 at Embassy Suites in Cary, was Rich Umbdenstock, president of the American Hospital Association.

During his speech, which was titled “We Are the Stewards of the Uninsured,” Frock presented an overview of how hospitals face the issue of the uninsured every day. He also summarized some successful grassroots efforts to deal with the matter, including FirstHealth’s own FirstPlan product.

FirstPlan is a group of benefit plans tailored especially for small businesses and offered through FirstCarolinaCare, FirstHealth’s wholly owned health plan subsidiary.

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New equipment provides faster bone density screenings

People at risk for osteoporosis now have access to a new screening at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital that is faster and safer than previous procedures. The hospital’s Imaging department has expanded its osteoporosis screening services by adding a Hologic DEXA Bone Densitometer, equipment that features Instant Vertebral Assessment (IVA).

IVA is a quick, low-dose X-ray scan of the spine. When done with a standard bone density test, it allows physicians to see spinal breaks that indicate the presence of or risk for osteoporosis.

“Prior to IVA, a patient would be referred for a regular spine X-ray,” says Soledad Griffin, M.D., a radiologist with Pinehurst Radiology Associates. “This often required a separate office visit, exposure to a higher dose of radiation, and additional time to process and review the image. With IVA, the spine scan is performed with a bone density test, during the same appointment, and the results are immediately available for the physician’s review.”

The new scanner can complete five scans in three to five minutes, and the radiation dose is less than that of a typical chest X-ray. The hospital’s previous scanning equipment did two scans in about 14 minutes.

For more information on this screening, call (800) 213-3284.


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FHC joins IBM in creating national EHR exchange model

FirstHealth of the Carolinas is part of a process to develop a nationwide system for the exchange of electronic health record (EHR) information.

David Dillehunt

The Office of Healthcare Information Technology in the federal Department of Health and Human Services is leading the effort to develop a national system that allows electronic health records to be shared and exchanged among all caregivers involved in a patient’s care. IBM was one of four large information technology companies selected to create a prototype system, and each was required to demonstrate that its model worked across three separate communities.

IBM decided to set up and test its model system in communities where it has large facilities—Taconic, N.Y.; Danville, Va.; and the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. “We had already been talking within the local community— with the major clinics and group practices—about finding a way to share information more easily than we do now,” says David Dillehunt, FirstHealth’s chief information officer. “This project seemed to be a good match between something we wanted to do and something IBM needed.”

FirstHealth worked closely with IBM on every aspect of its system. “We spent a lot of time thinking through the patient privacy and security issues,” Dillehunt says. “Everybody has a concern about who is looking at their data and how their data will be used. We brought to the table some real focus on those issues.”

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MMH gets rural health grant for recruiting physicians

A special grant awarded to FirstHealth Montgomery Memorial Hospital through the North Carolina Office of Rural Health focuses on establishing opportunities for medical residents and practicing physicians to learn firsthand about the challenges and benefits of rural health care delivery. The project’s goal is to improve efforts of Montgomery County, an area designated as medically underserved, to recruit physicians.

“Many health care professionals think that they understand rural health,” says MMH President Kerry Hensley. “We’re going to share the rest of the story.”

The recruitment project has three parts, including a weeklong elective rotation for residents in primary care programs and a continuing education option for practicing physicians. The third aspect of the project involves creating a community-driven committee to “showcase” Montgomery County for prospective physicians. Each of the educational aspects involves hands-on learning opportunities in Montgomery County.

“What better way to teach present and future physicians about rural health than to bring them to our community to work alongside our doctors in our hospital,” says Hensley.

In addition to Montgomery Memorial Hospital and its associated physicians, the project involves the Greensboro office of the North Carolina Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Program, the N.C. Office of Rural Health, the Moses Cone Health System Residency Teaching Programs and members of the Montgomery County community.

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Youth gardening project receives national award

Children from the Southern Pines Recreation and Parks Department’s after-school program give members of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension State Advisory Committee a tour of FirstGarden.

FirstGarden, an intergenerational gardening program, was chosen from more than 650 children’s gardening programs throughout the country to receive a 2007 Youth Garden Grant from the South Burlington, Vt.-based National Gardening Association.

The program received an assortment of books donated by the National Gardening Association and a $250 gift card from The Home Depot, which recognizes that today’s young people are the future of American gardening.

Organized by FirstHealth of the Carolinas, the Southern Pines Parks and Recreation Department and Moore County Cooperative Extension, FirstGarden pairs children with senior citizens in a gardening project that also stresses the importance of healthy eating and physical activity. Children from the town of Southern Pines and the Boys & Girls Club of the Sandhills work in the garden throughout the growing season with the assistance of Master Gardeners from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and senior volunteers.

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