BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The leader of LSU's health care system said Wednesday that the privatization of university-run hospitals and clinics has been smoother than he could have imagined, but he said many transition details remain incomplete.
While private hospital operators have taken over services at LSU health facilities across south Louisiana, they still need to shift the patient billing, appointment and medical records information to their own computer systems, said Frank Opelka, LSU vice president for health affairs and medical education redesign.
"There's so much complexity to that, making sure that we're dotting I's and crossing T's so nobody's appointments are dropped, all the allergies are transferred, the medication lists are right. There's a lot of detail work there," Opelka said.
"So far, because we kept in the same system, there've been minimal hiccups, amazingly minimal hiccups. But as we jump, then we've got to make sure that that transition minimizes risks to patients," he said.
Opelka told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge that the privatization effort, pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, was a better use of state and federal health care dollars and has improved patient care and medical training in the regions where the agreements have taken effect.
For example, he described expansion of cancer screening and disease prevention efforts in Houma and a 10-day prescription wait in Baton Rouge that has dropped to 10 minutes.
"What the partners have done in the transition is just beyond my imagination," Opelka said.
Jindal chose to impose most of a federal Medicaid financing reduction to the state on the LSU public hospital system that took care of the poor and uninsured and provided much of the training sites for medical students. The governor pushed privatization as a way to cut costs.
The LSU System had operated 10 hospitals around the state and their network of outpatient clinics. Outsourcing agreements have been worked out for nine of the hospitals, with LSU planning to continue running its hospital in Tangipahoa Parish.
University hospitals in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles have been shuttered, with their services transferred to other private hospitals in the area. Management of three LSU hospitals around south Louisiana was turned over to entities that run other nearby private hospitals.
Similar arrangements will take effect at other LSU hospitals over the next few months, with the deals expected to be complete by mid-2104.
Opelka likened the transition to the start of a marriage, where both partners still were learning about each other.
He said while the records and accounting systems transfers need to be completed, the LSU medical schools and the new hospital managers also were trying to hammer out the final terms of academic training agreements.
Long-term, he said LSU wants to beef up its data collection and analysis in coordination with the hospital operators, using the wealth of information to help with student training and to improve hospital performance and patient outcomes.
"We couldn't focus on this before because we were focusing on mere survival," he said.