An Open Letter to the Residents of St. Johns County and Neighboring Communities
Last month, Flagler Hospital announced its expansion to become Flagler
Health+. This embodies our commitment to advancing the physical, social,
and economic health of the communities we serve. As an organization that
has been caring for area residents since 1889, we are well known for the
clinical care we deliver, and we are proud of this; but we recognize that
is not enough. Our responsibility includes all aspects of well-being, including
What does that mean? At Flagler Health+, it means ensuring people receive
the right care, at the right time, in the right place. While you see other
health systems building free-standing emergency centers throughout Northeast
Florida, we are not. Encouraging people to utilize one of the highest-cost
points of care when it is not absolutely necessary just doesn’t
make sense. According to a study by UnitedHealth Group, the vast majority
of free-standing emergency visits are for non-emergency care, and these
visits cost average of 22 times more than a physician office and 19 times
more than an urgent care center. Alternatively, our new Flagler Health+
Villages will include extended hours for primary care, urgent care on-site
and at select Publix locations, and we have also introduced virtual visits
that can be accessed from anywhere.
When it comes to helping our patients predict and understand healthcare
costs, co-pays and insurance coverage, we know there is a lot of work
to be done. Health insurance plans are expensive, complex and varied.
To further add to the challenge, every patient’s experience is unique
even in instances where the same procedure or test is being performed.
At Flagler Health+ we are focused on improving financial literacy, increasing
price transparency and developing better engagement tools. We are not
there yet. We have, however, posted an easily searchable list of the most
common tests, procedures and inpatient hospitalizations on our website.
We also have financial counselors to help with out-of-pocket estimations
based on a review of your specific insurance policy. For those with no
health insurance coverage, we will help you make a plan to meet your financial
obligations, support Medicaid enrollments and/or access to charity care
resources. Flagler Health+ provides more than $35 million in charity care
to our community every year.
To further support social and economic health, which we know are tied together,
we have established Flagler Health+ Care Connect – a community alliance
that connects area residents with available services and addresses social
determinants of health in a coordinated way throughout all of St. Johns
County. We are connecting people with food banks, free prescriptions,
transportation, rental assistance, financial counseling, housing and other
vital services. Care Connect also serves as the lead agency for the Continuum
of Care with a goal to end homelessness in our community. By addressing
social determinants, we are keeping people healthier and ultimately out
of the hospital, reducing costs to the overall healthcare system.
Finally, we know how important it is for small and self-insured businesses
to control healthcare costs. The best way to achieve this is by improving
employee health. Our CareSteps program delivers personalized programming
to help employees achieve their wellness goals. Health assessments, preventive
care, exercise programs, behavioral health services and chronic disease
management offerings – combined with a focus on utilizing the most
appropriate care setting - are helping us effectively drive down healthcare
costs at Flagler, and we hope to help local businesses do the same.
At Flagler Health+, when we say we are a true healthcare partner on life’s
journey, we mean it. We know there is much work to be done to improve
on the costly, complex system that exists as healthcare in America today.
You have our word that Flagler Health+ is working on it.
Murray S. Marsh, Jr.
Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer