By Sean Williams / Guest Editorial

With a few exceptions, the hospitals in Iowa are community hospitals. They serve the areas where they are located and are accessible, convenient and typically a major local employer.

Iowa is well-served by community hospitals and most residents are within a reasonable distance of medical assistance, although many specialty services and advanced levels of care are located in more urban areas. No matter where they are located and whether they are large or small, these hospitals continuously work to meet the most pressing needs in their communities.

At Mercy Iowa City we are fortunate to be in a rapidly growing urban area that is also a highly desirable community in which to live. The Iowa City/Cedar Rapids Corridor is an attractive environment to recruit to for a variety of reasons. One thing we can do to provide support and keep health care local is to partner with our more rural colleagues in serving the needs of their communities.

While offering outreach to rural community hospitals is not unique to Mercy Iowa City, it is important to the patients we serve in southeast Iowa. Our commitment to patients is to provide them with the most convenient care we can as close to home as possible. When additional specialty services are needed, we will work with the local providers to make this transition as seamless and friendly as possible.

Many of our specialists travel weekly to see patients in different communities and counties in southeast Iowa. It’s dramatically easier for patients to visit their closest community hospital than drive to Iowa City. What is good for the patient is also good for their closest community hospital. Patients continue to go there while we work with their primary provider for continuity of care.

Who provides the care in our community hospitals varies based on the location. In some places, all of the providers are employed by the hospital. In others, all of the providers are in private practice and partner with the hospital. And in the rest, such as Mercy Iowa City, it is a combination of employed and independent providers who work together to provide care.

We find great strength in the combination of employed and independent physicians. We depend on both to make the decisions and provide the care that allows Mercy Iowa City to fulfill its mission of healing and comforting the sick and improving the health of our community.

All of the many decisions we have made about the future of our system has included the input of our medical staff. The many outreach services and clinics we offer are possible because of our medical staff, both employed and independent. They are the backbone of the care that we provide.

This partnership with the medical staff benefits the community and we are all better for it. Here are several examples: Mercy Iowa City recently formed a partnership with Iowa Heart Center, the largest cardiovascular provider in the state with more than 90 cardiologists, centered in Des Moines with offices in 11 communities. This partnership expands the panel of providers at Mercy and brings additional services to the excellent program that was already named a top 50 program nationally. Our recent partnership with Washington County Hospital means our physicians now staff their emergency room, an opportunity we may explore with other community hospitals. As partners with Steindler Orthopedic Clinic, patients can be seen at their office, in outreach settings in their local hospitals, at Mercy or the Ambulatory Surgery Center, another partnership between Mercy and many of our specialists.

These and other partnerships strengthen the communities we serve in southeast Iowa, and similar relationships exist across the state. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Sean J. Williams is president and CEO of Mercy Iowa City.