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Saturday 21 September 2019
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Pooler’s own Fran Baker-Witt : CEO, Effingham Health Systems 2018 Overview of EHS

Story by Cindy Reid • Photos by Shuman Fine Art Photography
A few years back, Effingham Health System (EHS) embarked on a transformational journey,
best described by CEO Fran Baker-Witt when she says, “We are redefining healthcare—close to
home.”
What does this mean for the people of Effingham County, and how are they delivering on that
promise? We spoke with Mrs.Baker-Witt to learn more about the changes that have taken place
in the past year and the vision she has for the future of our locally based, non-profit, healthcare
system. First, Mrs. Baker-Witt explains that transformation means examining and changing,
where necessary, every patient service and interaction across the multi-tiered healthcare system.
Throughout that process, empowering patients to take an active role in their own health and well-
being, while assuring the best possible health outcomes for all patients.
2018 Highlights
Four-Star Rating
Perhaps the best measure of success to-date comes from the patients themselves. For two
years in a row Effingham Health System is the only hospital in the Greater Savannah Area
(Chatham, Effingham, Bryan and Bulloch counties), to receive a four-star rating from the
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and has once again been named a “Top Hospital in
Georgia” based on the quality of care EHS provides patients.
Effingham Health System was also voted “Best Hospital in the Coastal Empire” in the “2018
Best of the Best” reader poll, sponsored by Savannah Morning News and savannahnow.com.
“The patient experience is extremely important to us,” says Mrs. Baker-Witt. “We are truly
honored by this award because it shows us that our patients and our community recognize the
transformation in progress at Effingham Health System.” Effingham Health System was also a
finalist in two other categories, Best Emergency Room and Best Nursing Home.
Da Vinci X Robotic-Assisted Surgery
One of Mrs. Baker-Witt’s goals is to attract the finest specialty medical care in the region to
Effingham. When it comes to surgery, she explains, that means providing surgeons with the right
tools. EHS recently added the da Vinci X system robotic for assisting in minimally invasive
surgery. The state-of-the-art system (no settling for an older model, Mrs. Baker-Witt points out)
is already attracting highly-respected surgeons to Effingham Health System. Because the high-
tech system allows specially trained surgeons to operate through a few small incisions, with
enhanced vision and precision,
patients can benefit from faster recovery times.
PARAMED Community Outreach
Another goal of transformation is developing community outreach programs that improve
patient health outcomes.
The first of these outreach programs, launched in 2018, is Effingham Health System’s
PARAMED. CEO Fran Baker- Witt says, “PARAMED allows us to reach out to patients in the
community to help them manage chronic diseases.” Management of diseases, such as diabetes
and hypertension, can decrease the need for emergency care, and increase life expectancy.
Effingham Health System (EHS) is helping to fill the gap between providers and their patients by
providing health and wellness checks by an RN, a certified Paramedic, or an EMT, in the
patient’s home, for referred patients who are a fit for the program. “The team actually goes to the
patient’s home, and they may take their blood pressure or a glucose reading, whatever is
necessary for the patients’ well-being,” explains Mrs. Baker-Witt.
The PARAMED team seeks to understand the underlying issues a patient is experiencing that
impact compliance with their physician’s treatment plan. That often means connecting them with
community resources that can help fulfill specific needs. “This is a win-win for our patients and
community, which is what it is all about,” explains Mrs. Baker-Witt. “PARAMED helps us
deliver the best possible health outcomes for these patients, reducing ER visits and hospital
admissions. “
PARAMED works strictly on a referral basis from medical providers, Effingham Health
System’s ER, local EMS, and EHS patient advocates. Priority is given for high-risk patients who
struggle the most to maintain control. Fewer visits to the ER,many of which are not covered by
insurance, will also help Effingham Health System reduce unreimbursed costs for care. Mrs.
Baker-Witt says, “We are keeping patients from an EMS ER situation—due to medical
instability—by keeping patients healthy in their own home.”
The program was initially sponsored by a Rural Hospital Stabilization Project Grant from the
Georgia Department of Community Health.
TELEMED Expansion
Following a successful pilot program in 2017, Effingham Health System’s TELEMED
expanded to include four local elementary schools for the 2018-19 school year. The school-based
telemedicine program allows parents to opt in to have their children seen by an EHS provider
during school hours. Working through the school nurse, the physician or advanced practitioner
examines the child remotely through a special, secure, computer network—complete with high-
tech ear thermometer and a high-definition camera. The examining physician or practitioner can
make a diagnosis and call in prescriptions for the parents to pick up. Parents have the option to
be present for the visit, but it is not necessary. Either way the school nurse will keep parents
informed. EHS TELEMED makes healthcare for children more convenient and accessible,
avoids delays in treatment, and enhances learning by decreasing absenteeism.
EHS has partnered with Georgia Partnership for Telehealth, which has launched telemedicine
programs in over 100 schools across the state. Mrs. Baker-Witt says, “I can’t say enough good
things about our partnership with the Board of Education. It is clear that telemedicine will play a
major role in the future of medical care and we are leading the way here in Effingham.” Expect
further growth of the program in Effingham’s public schools.
Pediatrics Win-Win
Pediatrics is one community need that arose from employees at a CEO forum. Mrs. Baker-Witt
listened and recruited Bailey Alford, MD, FAAP, a board-certified pediatrician in the fall of
2017. After Dr. Bailey’s first year treating young patients in Guyton and Springfield, Mrs.
Baker-Witt says, “The addition of a pediatrician continues to be a big win for us. Dr. Alford is in
partnership with our telemedicine program and our pediatric services have grown significantly.
We hope to consolidate her practice and our pediatrics program in 2019-2020 by creating a
physical place for Dr Alford to call her own.”
Block Party & Health Fair
Effingham Health System kicked of its 50th Jubilee year celebration with a first-of-its-kind
health fair and block party this past November. Medical professionals from every department in
the hospital were on hand, giving free health screenings such as vision tests and blood pressure
assessments. The fun event provided an opportunity for patients to connect with EHS staff, ask
questions, and learn about new services the healthcare system provides.
What’s New for 2019
The transformation continues into 2019. EHS will be building and expanding as dictated by
the needs of the community, says Fran Baker- Witt. She says,” We are positioning Effingham
Health System to be competitive and strong. Providing the best possible health care—close to
home.
All of us, from the Board to the staff level, embrace innovation and continually strive to
improve access, improve quality, and improve the patient’sexperience.”
She continues," EHS is expanding access to providers for the Cancer Care Center as well as
recruiting specialists in orthopedics, vascular and urology." She explains, “We connect with
specialty networks to ensure our community receives the best possible care without having to
drive to Savannah. This year we are also looking at expansion with our health partnerships and
venturing into other service areas such as mental health, behavioral health, and cardio care, to
meet the needs of our community.”
Mrs.Baker-Witt says, “For EHS, it’s building the confidence of the community in our ability
to provide important services close to home. When I first came here, I noticed that culturally, in
the EHS environment, there was no valuing the organization. An environment of transparency
did not exist. I feel my strength is that the board has grown to appreciate me as a
transformational leader who believes in transparency. Transparency in turn lends itself to respect
and trust. This is our commitment to the right care at the right time.”




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