Rising from the Esham dairy farm in Berlin, Atlantic General Hospital begins its third decade of community dedication with a first-rate staff and state-of-the-art technology
In 1993, Bill Clinton was serving his first term as president; Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court; Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven won the Academy Award for Best Picture; and Atlantic General Hospital opened its doors to the community for the very first time.
It wasn’t easy. It had been tried before, too. In fact, the attempt to create a community hospital in Worcester County goes back to the 1950s. But it wasn’t until a heroic community effort in the late 80s — led by local visionaries such as Irvin Bainum, Linda Robbins, Dr. Francis Townsend, Jr., James G. Barrett, Mark Pilchard and many others — that the long-held dream of a quality healthcare facility in the heart of Worcester came to fruition. For their part, the state of Maryland and Worcester County had each contributed $5 million, with the town of Ocean City kicking in another $2.5 million. Those commitments were supplemented by some very vigorous local fundraising efforts.
Back in those fragile early days, only six physicians, 62 beds and a small ER stood between an injured or ill Worcester County resident and a 30-minute drive to the nearest hospital. But as anyone who knows the area will tell you, Worcester County residents are both steadfast and cohesive, so under the auspices of that tireless community spirit, Atlantic General Hospital quickly grew strong.
“Though it is difficult to distill down to a single factor, it’s true that more than anything else, the success of AGH is due to the unbreakable commitment that exists between our staff and the community,” said Ann B. Taylor, AGH’s vice president of quality and medical staff services, who’s been with them from the beginning. “We feel the love and support of this community every day, and there is virtually no limit to what our associates and medical staff would do to serve it faithfully.”
To this day, that chord of unwavering community dedication remains the institution’s singular driving force, permeating every nook, cranny and staff member of its ever-refining, ever-improving operation. In 2003, for example, AGH enlarged its emergency department, added a sleep-disorders diagnostic center and allotted additional space for pulmonary medicine, hospital administration, an outpatient laboratory and imaging department. The following year it created the Center
for Joint Surgery and the Eunice E. Sorin Women’s Diagnostic Center, a department dedicated solely to women’s health diagnostic services.
They were at it again in 2007, when they launched their now-heralded “30-minute ER promise” guarantee, while April 2008 saw the official opening of the 42,000 sq. ft. James G. Barrett Medical Office Building on the corner of Healthway Drive. The Becker Morgan-designed complex provided a home for services new not only to AGH but to the region itself, including a Wound Care Center and the dedicated Atlantic Endoscopy Center.
There was certainly no let-up in 2009, which is when AGH launched Atlantic ImmediCare, a brilliant partnership with Rite Aid Pharmacy that allows patients to access quality walk-in primary medical care at the same place they can also receive their pharmacy services, much more cost-effectively and expeditiously than a visit to the ER. Meanwhile, 2010 saw the opening of the Outpatient Infusion Center at AGH and the addition of medical oncology services.
AGH accommodates nearly 100,000 patient visits per year, with more than 600 talented associates dedicated to the provision of the utmost quality in healthcare. Patient safety, respect and general kindness have been entrenched as inviolable tenets at AGH, while acronyms like HUGGS (“Have You Given Great Service?”) have become daily mantras. Quieter and more immaculate than ever, the latest statistics of patient satisfaction reveal that at least 75% of its patients give AGH — a Joint Commission Accredited Hospital — a score of 9 or 10 out of 10 when it comes to overall quality of care.
With the launch of their Patient Electronic Record-Keeping Service (PERKS), it’s also clear that AGH is looking squarely to the future. The PERKS system allows physicians and nursing staff to create and update the details of a patient’s visit, whether he/she is admitted as an inpatient or through the ER, and preserve it within an electronic hospital record. The PERKS system is already connected to the Maryland health-information database and will similarly link to its Delaware counterpart by the end of this year. These databases furnish key information about a patient’s previous hospitalizations, offering valuable insight for hospital staff currently providing care. In fact, industry experts predict that PERKS will be linked to the health-information databases of all 50 states within five years. AGH is planning to enhance PERKS so that patients will soon have their own portals, where they can view and update certain aspects of their healthcare records whenever they choose.
“There is a major paradigm shift underway that is ‘patient-centric,’” advised Barbara Riddell, AGH’s vice president of information services. “It means that in the near future, perhaps within the next five years, there will be nothing in a patient’s record without his or her knowledge and no aspect of it that they can’t view or access using their own computers or wireless Internet devices. They’ll even be able to do things like order their own prescription refills through this system. It’s a revolutionary step to be sure, but I think it’s one whose time has come.”
It would appear that revolutionary steps are becoming old hat to AGH’s progressive staff, as evidenced not only by PERKS but also their brand-new “care.connection” network. With care.connection, every room now has its own 18.5” touchscreen LCD communications unit that not only allows patients to consume important health information, it also lets them and their visitors watch TV, make calls with its built-in phone, Skype with loved ones outside the area and even go online to surf the Web in the event that another dose of adorable YouTube kitty videos is just what the doctor — or patient — ordered. Not so incidentally, AGH is the first and only healthcare facility on the entire Eastern Shore to have deployed this type of system.
It seems clear that the first 20 years of AGH have been well spent, but at their current rate of development, it looks like their next 20 may be even better.
Happy Birthday, AGH! Thank you for all you’ve done to enhance the health and welfare of this community.
ATLANTIC GENERAL HOSPITAL
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