Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Report #2: Reasons for LGH's market dominance

NewsLanc borrowed the services of Douglas McVay, Director of Research with an affiliated non-profit organization, to determine what circumstances have enabled Lancaster General Hospital (LGH) to earn the second highest profits in the State, amounting to $136 million in fiscal year 2007. Findings are not meant to detract from the efficiency and competence of LGH and the high quality service they provide.

The following is not a definitive list of LGH’s marketing advantages, but only those supported by current data on hand.

1) LGH has a very large -- 34,000 square feet -- emergency department, the biggest in the area. Visits have jumped from 56,287 in 2003 to 93,489 in 2007.

2) LGH has the county's only Level II trauma center and Level III neonatal intensive care unit. More serious emergency cases are likely to be routed directly to LGH rather than one of the other hospitals in the area. Inpatient admissions originating in LGH's emergency department rose from 11,425 in 2002 to 16,853 in 2007. In 2002, 36% of admissions originated in the emergency department; by 2007 that had grown to 42%, and it seems to still be trending upward.

3) LGH had been ranked quite highly in annual US News & World Report hospital surveys in some specialties in years past although rankings have slipped recently.

4) LGH markets itself as a "Nursing Magnet Hospital" and claims on its website, "Magnet recognition is a coveted designation to recognize excellence in nursing care." According to the Center for Nursing Advocacy "Some critics, including the California Nurses Association and the Massachusetts Nurses Association, have argued that the Magnet program is primarily a hospital promotion tool …."

5) LGH’s affiliate, Lancaster General Medical Group (LGMG), is a "multi-specialty network of physicians and mid-level providers." Established in 1995, LGMG has "105 physicians and 20 mid-level providers distributed among 16 practices at multiple sites." Beyond being LGLH profit centers themselves, physicians and providers in the Group are also likely to use LGH facilities.

6) LGH established one of the nation's first residency programs specializing in Family Medicine. This program helps LGH build referral relationships with young physicians who often stay in the Lancaster area -- whether or not they work directly for LGH or an LGMG practice.

7) LGH facilities have been redecorated in a tasteful manner. (The entryway on James Streets presents a five star ambience.) As an observer opined "It is like staying at a nice hotel. Even the food isn’t too bad."

Due to LGH’s growing market dominance, some observers expect both Regional Hospital and Heart of Lancaster cease to be full service hospitals and for a merged LGH / Ephrata Hospital to have a monopoly. Greater transparency and public input will influence LGH, a not for profit corporation, to use its remarkable profitability in the best interests of the community.