VIEWPOINT | ‘Keep going’ WhidbeyHealth

By Brian Jones

Great things are happening in our local health care system, WhidbeyHealth.

I am prompted to write this as I watch the comments in the paper, on social media and my own conversations with people in our community. The negativity surrounding the name change to WhidbeyHealth is, in my opinion, misplaced.

Having worked the past 18 years in the healthcare industry, I’ve been fortunate to travel to more than 1,000 hospitals.

My profession is to go to these hospitals and their surrounding systems to demonstrate how technology can improve patient experiences, point-of-care and general outcomes by healthcare providers. I believe I have a very extensive background on how to diagnose the quality of a health care system.

Over the past 10 years, health care has changed. It has gone from a very academic industry focused on healing people any way possible to a customer service driven industry where how a patient is treated is as important as the quality of care provided. With these changes, our little critical access hospital has developed into a full healthcare delivery network.

If you watched closely over the past ten years, you have seen the best medical practices up and down the island be acquired by Whidbey General. You had to watch closely because all these practices maintained their identity and kept their people in place. These acquisitions were important to the growth of these practices as well as beneficial to the healthcare system.

Being affiliated with the hospital allows providers to participate in more insurance contracts, provide more specialty, share technology, provide more services, see more patients and open lines of communication which had previously not been available to providers.

You might ask why they acquired these practices, and the reality is there has been a plan in place for years to provide what is called a “continuum of care” on Whidbey.

What this means is the people who take care of us when we are sick can take care of us from birth to the end of our lives.

It means the sharing of life-saving clinical data when you are brought to the emergency room unconscious, unresponsive or not breathing. It means investment in technology and recruitment of better providers from medical assistants, to nurses to physicians.

People have asked me, why would they change their name? It seems like a waste of money to pay $150,000 to rebrand the hospital. They didn’t do it just to make a change, they did it to reflect what they are: a healthcare delivery network.

Is it necessary? Yes.

Over the past couple of years I have seen our community attract excellent physician talent and adopt policies that stress quality of care and quality of the patient’s experience. This is not the same hospital you visited even five years ago. For the first time ever in my 35 years as a resident of Oak Harbor, I’ve seen the executives out in the community accepting your feedback, introducing you to their newer services and partnering with groups to make your healthcare experience on Whidbey Island the best it can be.

I would like to applaud CEO Geri Forbes and her team and I say, “keep going!” Continue to find ways to improve quality and increase access to care.

My wish list is for WhidbeyHealth to add a cardiac catheterization lab so people experiencing chest pain or in cardiac distress aren’t shipped to Mount Vernon or Everett.

The actions taken by the commissioners and executives of WhidbeyHealth are going to allow us to live longer. Please continue to grow this tremendous organization and operate it in a financially sound way. I, for one, support WhidbeyHealth completely.

When I get sick, when my family gets sick, they take care of us. Their investment in telling our community who they are and what they can do is a wise and financially sound investment.



Editor’s note: Brian T. Jones is vice president of and a resident of Oak Harbor.