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WVU Medicine Wetzel County Expansion Benefits Residents

By Randy Rutherford - Staff Writer | Apr 28, 2021

Wetzel County Hospital joined the WVU Medicine group in July 2020. I recently sat down with Sean Smith, Chief Operating Officer and Roger Lockhart, Marketing Director, both with Camden Clark Hospital, Parkersburg, WV. Both gentlemen walked me through several reasons how this joint venture will bring better services to the citizens of the Ohio Valley.

A St. Marys native, Smith is a two-time graduate of Marshall University. He joined Camden Clark in 2011. Over the past 10 years, he has held various management positions, including COO, vice president of physician enterprises and clinical integration, vice president of operations, executive director of Camden Clark Physician Corporation, and director of physician recruitment. He is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and was selected to the inaugural 2018-2019 West Virginia Hospital Association State Leadership Class. In addition to his role as President of Wetzel County Hospital, Smith will continue to serve as COO at Camden Clark.

WVU Medicine has recently added several facilities to their family including: Wheeling Hospital; Fairmont Medical Center in Fairmont; WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital; United Hospital Center in Bridgeport; Camden Clark Medical Center in Parkersburg; Berkeley Medical Center in Martinsburg; Barnesville Hospital in Belmont County, Ohio; Braxton County Memorial Hospital in Gasaway; Harrison Community Hospital in Cadiz, Ohio; Jackson General Hospital in Ripley; Jefferson Medical Center in Ranson; Potomac Valley Hospital in Keyser; Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glendale; Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Buckhannon; Summersville Regional Medical Center in Summersville; Uniontown Hospital in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, Wetzel County Hospital in New Martinsville and Wheeling Hospital in Wheeling.

The J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown serves as its flagship.

Services offered in the WVU Family of Hospitals include: Primary care services; Emergency Services; Specialty Surgical Services including Cardiology, Pulmonology, Allergy, General Surgery, Orthopedic Surgery, Podiatry, and Interventional Pain Urology; Radiology Services including CT, MRI X-ray, Bone Density, Ultrasound, Nuclear Medicine, and Mammography; Lab Services; Rehab/Therapy Services which includes Cardiac Rehab and Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy. Additional services offered are Respiratory Therapy including Pulmonary Function Testing; Home Sleep Studies along with Inpatient Care with 24/7 Hospitalist Service; Swing Bed Services including Inpatient Skilled Nursing and Rehab Services.

Mr. Smith explained, “One of the goals of joining forces is to fill the gaps in Healthcare and to prevent duplicating services. We like to spread out the specialties and not repeat within the system.” He also said if one of their group hospitals does not offer a needed particular specialty service, then the hospital can recommend another group facility that can fulfill the need.

According to Mr. Smith, Joint Ventures with WVU Medicine, is designed to provide greater access to more people at a hospital of their choice. One of the biggest advantages is access to medical records through their EPIC SYSTEM. A patient can go in any one of the group member hospitals, and the staff there can immediately access the medical records of that patient. This makes it more convenient to continue their treatment they may have received somewhere else within the system. Doctors travel to different hospitals several days a week to make scheduling appointments easier so that the patient enjoys consistency with the doctor of their choice. For example, a patient can have lab work done at one facility in the WVU system; then visit another member hospital, and the staff will have access to that lab work. This saves the patient money and time because they don’t have to have lab work done every time they visit a different facility.

I spoke with Doctors Gary and Amanda Nichols regarding reasons why they joined the WVU Medicine Family. Dr. Amanda explained, “We joined Wetzel County Hospital in January of 2019 knowing that WVU already had an agreement with them and would be purchasing them. We became fully WVU July 1st. The biggest thing for us as physicians is the network it allows us to be a part of.” This came into full effect when they got the EPIC medical records system in their office November 1st. While it has certainly had its challenges and growing pains, as any new office-wide implementation would, it has vastly changed how they approach patient care.

The doctors now have access to the patient’s medical records from most of their other providers if they are in the WVU system. “For instance, if I am seeing a patient who is unsure what mediation their cardiologist placed them on, I can easily see it on their notes as well as any studies that have been done,” said Dr. Gary Nichols. He also explained it is easier to do referrals to specialists within the WVU network. Another benefit is patients are able to log on to their own chart and see results for themselves. The EPIC system allows doctors to track patient’s medications and do refills, and even tracks vaccinations. It makes continuity of care much better and prevents duplication. Patients truly get better care with this full access. “Personally, WVU has treated us well as employed physicians and we feel proud to be part of a successful and forward-thinking health care system,” expressed Dr. Amanda Nichols.