The wax and wane of service trends at Sheridan Memorial Hospital help tell the story of the economic climate in Sheridan. From spikes in home care to dips in surgeries, each increase or decrease in services bring to light other events causing those statistics within the medical field.
SMH saw a large spike in home care as a whole, and particularly in physical therapy services in the last six months.
“It’s one of those things that we see demand that usually outpaces our ability to staff it,” SMH chief financial officer Nathan Stutte said.
Because of the high demand for home care, services might not be scheduled for up to two weeks out. Home care patients typically receive care within a week of requesting services.
While the hospital saw a spike in home care in the last six months, those types of services narrate a bigger story of an overall high aging population in Sheridan County. DataUSA recorded steady increases in population of 65 to 74-year-olds from 2013 to 2015, and in those 75 years old and older. The hospital offers physical, occupational and speech therapies within home care.
“It’s nothing new for us,” Stutte said. “It’s something that’s been increasing year over year in that area.”
Much unlike home care, deliveries report consistently low numbers. Stutte believes, pulling from his own experience and the stories he gathers from others, that Sheridan serves as a location for young families with small children. Younger people leave Sheridan seeking job opportunities but return after starting families.
Economic groups and the city of Sheridan focus on retaining youth in the community and providing job opportunities that appeal to a younger demographic. Former city council member Kristin Kelly, who vacated her position after taking a job in Denver, Colorado, emphasized the need for job development in the community.“I do so hope that economic development activities move forward so that there are more options for opportunities and job choices in Sheridan in the future,” Kelly said in her resignation letter Oct. 9, 2017.
Emergency room visits followed a predictable pattern throughout the year. The ER became busy during the summer months and spiked in services in July.
With the new urgent care going in as part of the services provided at the hospital, it took some action away from the ER.
The ER saw its first official slowdown in the past year, which Stutte said fits with the overall theme of service slowdown throughout the hospital. This parallels the slight economic slowdown Sheridan has experienced.
Length of stay
The slowdown of ER visits directly contributes to length of stay at the hospital, as do number of surgeries and types of surgeries performed.
The more ER patients, the longer a person’s stay. Likewise, if a patient comes in for a more complex inpatient surgery, they will remain at the hospital for a longer period of time. Advancing technology and outsourcing outpatient surgeries to a facility across the street brought down length of stay for SMH.
The economic slowdown also plays into a dip in surgeries. Stutte believes the public’s overall uneasiness with health care policies at the federal level deters some from seeking medical help.
“Everyone doesn’t get better all of a sudden, but you just see this slowdown that’s been pent up,” Stutte said.
The final factor Stutte believes contributes to decreased time of stay is the resident physician at SMH, who completes “more efficient and timely care” to those receiving inpatient treatment services.
While the purpose of some fluctuations in services remain a mystery, the hospital can tie a lot of its data to outside contributing factors of economic health in Sheridan.