As we all know, there is nothing permanent except change. Changes in healthcare continue to occur rapidly and the success of an organization is based not on reacting to change but being proactive. Deepak Chopra stated, “All great changes are preceded by chaos.” What we have been through this last year and a half has definitely been chaotic.

Through careful planning, excellent board leadership and exceptional providers and employees, Lakewood has been able to successfully maneuver through this chaos and position ourselves for the future, but it does not happen without making difficult decisions.

In the past, we have worked with other healthcare systems in our region to make specialty services available right here in Staples, or we have been able to recruit our own medical providers. However, recent market changes have impacted our ability to provide local access to services: there is a shortage of medical providers, new providers want more work/life balance and do not want to travel, demand for services has increased with aging populations, and decreases in hospital reimbursement have increased competition among organizations. Over the last few years, we have lost urology coverage at Lakewood, but were fortunate to recruit our own urology provider. Our cardiology coverage was also reduced, but we were able to change to a new cardiology group. We have recruited new family practice, podiatry and dermatology providers. The changing healthcare industry has impacted our dependency on these regional organizations.

At the end of the day, independence and access to local health services at Lakewood is a top priority which has required us to make difficult decisions to pursue new partnerships and secure access to the best possible care for our patients. Along with the new urology and cardiology arrangements, we have also recently made a change in our orthopedic coverage by collaborating with Twin Cities Orthopedics. These decisions have resulted in changes in providers, with whom some patients have had close relationships. We have a great deal of respect for these providers and patients, and the kind of connections that can form through the years. But leadership’s job is to look at the big picture and make decisions we feel are the right for the long-term.

Lakewood has historically made these types of proactive, visionary changes and it is why we believe we are one of the leading rural health systems in Minnesota. Our partnership with TCO will provide a more robust offering of orthopedic services, increased local coverage and world-class service and outcomes, which you will experience first-hand as you get to know them.

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I recently spoke with Aaron Johnson, CEO at Twin Cities Orthopedics and he shared, “TCO is excited for this opportunity and committed to the new partnership with Lakewood and the region. We look forward to meeting the Lakewood patients and community, so they will allow us to become a trusted partner.”

All these changes have increased the access and quality of healthcare services to this region. That is what we have been doing for this area since 1936 and we will continue to do, even if the transition and changes are difficult. Georg C. Lichtenberg stated, “I cannot say whether things will be better if we change, what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.” Thank you for supporting and trusting us as we continue to be proactive to the changes that are occurring in healthcare, and in our world.

Tim Rice is the President and CEO of Lakewood Health System in Staples.