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Howard County General Hospital, 'a vision of health'

Part of our series of essays from leaders imagining the future of Columbia.

In the world of health care, uncertainty and complexity come with the terrain, so few things are more important than setting a clear vision.

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The most energizing and exciting part of my job as president of Howard County General Hospital is planning for the future. The vision our team is building is informed by where we know the world of health care is heading, and what we know about the health, social and demographic needs of the wonderful community of Columbia and beyond.

When I look to the future, I see HCGH as a trusted partner in the total health and well-being of Columbia, and all of Howard County – and much more than a place to go for the urgent treatment of a condition, or what we call "episodic care."

I see the hospital at the very center of your health and wellness experience.

To build our way to that future, we are strengthening partnerships with organizations such as the Howard County Health Department, the Department of Aging, the Columbia Association, the Horizon Foundation and other entities.

Leaders at HCGH and our community health partners are working together to identify the greatest risks to your well-being — from behavioral health needs to obesity to access to care — and we are developing strategies to address them. We care about wellness, and integration of your care management.

The short name for this effort is "population health" and it is a game-changer. Our hospital is ready, willing and able to be at the center of managing the health of our population.

That's a big part of the future, but there's a lot more.

I also see HCGH as a place that will translate cutting-edge research at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab into practical applications for the benefit of our community. And, if we can't provide what you need here, we offer a gateway to the best specialists in the world just a few miles away, under the Johns Hopkins umbrella.

I see the hospital as the best place to work in Howard County — a place that cares for our staff as it cares for our community.

Demographers tell us that Columbia is growing and graying. That's a testament to the half-century-old vision of founder James Rouse, who built a new city based on smart land-use concepts and on equality of opportunity.

Because of the success of his vision, many Columbia pioneers are forgoing the chance to move elsewhere. They want to stay in Rouse's crowning achievement. Families are moving here from all over the region, the country and the world for the quality of life. And they are staying. Generations of them.

When we grow older, our health challenges accelerate. We are looking ahead and anticipating the needs of our graying community — where the population age 55 and older will more than double in the next few years.

That means that our physical hospital will no doubt be bigger than it now is, but will also need more outpatient services and satellite locations that offer prevention and treatment of chronic conditions.

In the future, the hospital campus — strategically located and well-connected to other anchor institutions such as Howard Community College, Symphony Woods, Merriweather and the lakefront — will be greener. We will tear up our sea of asphalt, and turn it into a haven of health.

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We will be a place where you can learn how to cook healthful meals, practice yoga, have your cataracts removed and receive physical therapy.

Our name will be associated with your total health experience.

When Columbia was founded, HCGH was the only hospital in the county. Fifty years later, we still are, and we accept the responsibilities that come with this distinction.

When you visit us, sometimes it is for a joyful experience. Nearly 3,600 babies are born here every year — the future of Columbia is being delivered here every day.

Often, we help you through frightening times — treating a broken bone or helping you recover from stroke or heart attack. Sometimes we are part of poignant times, guiding families through difficult end-of-life decisions.

We know that most often you don't want to be here. But if you are here, our ultimate goal is to deliver five-star treatment. If you hear me talk, you know I say that our aim is to create a delightful patient experience. That's not something you often associate with a hospital — but this world-class community deserves nothing less.

In the future, I see Columbia and Howard County as the healthiest community in this nation, with HCGH at the heart of it. If we can't get the best health care here, well, it won't happen anywhere. I think we can do it.

Steve Snelgrove is president of Howard County General Hospital, in Columbia.



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