Q&A with Burt Piper, PharmD, FACHE, CEO of Roxborough Memorial Hospital

In an interview with Invest: Burton Piper, CEO of Roxborough Memorial Hospital, discussed the current status of the hospital and the industry in general, as well as the strength of the region’s healthcare ecosystem. “Philadelphia trains a lot of physicians, perhaps more physicians than any other city in the United States,” said Piper.

What have been some recent achievements Roxborough Memorial Hospital has had?

One of the achievements would be getting through two rounds of COVID-19. During that time, we were able to take care of patients in the community. Also, we started a rehabilitation unit. We’ve already seen success with it, and we’re working on developing the program further.

How would you describe the strength of Philadelphia’s healthcare ecosystem?

I would describe it as strong. Philadelphia trains a lot of physicians, perhaps more physicians than any other city in the United States. We have a number of medical schools and residency programs that are supporting our medical talent pipeline. At Roxborough Memorial Hospital, we have two residency programs.

How does demand for your services today compare to 2019?

During the pandemic, we saw a decrease in surgeries. We’ve seen our surgical volume come back. However, we’re not quite where we’d like to be. Our ER volumes have come back to what they were pre-pandemic, and our outpatient volumes are close to what they were pre-pandemic as well.

There are reports of people coming in today with conditions that were not diagnosed during the pandemic. People were staying away from hospitals because if they didn’t need to be seen, then they waited because of their fear of COVID. For example, more people coming in now have been diabetic or have cardiovascular diseases.

What are some innovations that are being implemented at the hospital?

We have a cardiac catheterization lab that we started developing. We’re in the process of installing a new MRI, and we’re going to have that done soon. Currently, we’re evaluating a new surgical robot. This would be an upgraded version of what we currently have, further improving our quality of care at Roxborough.

How would you describe the cost of healthcare in Philadelphia?

The state of healthcare costs is the same as in the rest of the United States. We continue to try to control those costs. Recent statistics show that labor costs in the United States are up 19%, and supply costs increased 36%. Unfortunately, those two factors are going to increase the costs of health care. All of the hospitals try to control those costs.

The major issue that is making it hard to control those costs is staffing. We already had a nursing shortage before the pandemic. However, the pandemic made the problem worse. A lot of nurses decided to retire during the pandemic. We have seen the same problem with position specialties. This has caused an imbalance in the market.

What does the future of patient care interaction look like?

Virtual interaction was already occurring pre-pandemic. However, the pandemic accelerated the process. I think the main reason why is because it was the safest way to see their physician. I believe we’re going to continue to see growth in this area because a lot of appointments can be done virtually. It’s convenient for people.

In a post-pandemic landscape, what strategies are you implementing from a patient safety perspective?

In terms of new strategies, we’re going to evaluate our environment. We have a meeting every morning and patient safety is a frequent topic of discussion. The biggest thing is that we encourage reporting of potential issues, much more than we did years ago.

What’s your outlook in the next three to five years?

There’s going to be a significant shift that occurs in the market. There are currently two hospitals in the area that are for sale. There are a few hospitals that have been closed. Overall, I think we’re going to see consolidation. However, the question is, who’s owning who?