Northern Virginians are fortunate to have available to them an excellent health care system. Resources available to the region’s over 2.4 million residents include a comparatively large number of highly trained physicians, nurses and other health care professionals, a network of strategically located community hospitals with state-of-the-art medical services and technology, and an array of long-term care services tailored to the needs of region’s elderly and disabled populations.
Compared with other regions and similarly sized and situated communities, Northern Virginia is distinguished by low morbidity and mortality, less inpatient hospital and nursing home use, high insurance coverage levels, and superior individual and community health. These relatively favorable circumstances are attributable both to the region’s demography and to the effectiveness, efficiency, and quality orientation of the service delivery system. HSANV works with health service providers, and with other interested parties, to ensure that these positive conditions continue.
Generally favorable health status and health service capabilities do not mean that there are not substantial health care problems to be addressed. Even with changes brought by ACA to ensure coverage, census data indicates almost 9% of areas population is still without insurance, and community hospital emergency rooms continue to be the principal source of both emergency and primary medical care for these residents, as well as for thousands of others who have limited or inadequate health insurance coverage. After a short period of relative stability, health care costs are again rising sharply, making it even more difficult to ensure that care is readily available to those in need.
Though highly capable, the local health care delivery system faces a number of challenges. Technological advances, economic pressures, and changing practice norms have combined to shift the site of care from inpatient to outpatient settings for a growing number of health care services. One of the by-products of this shift, is that the burden of trying to ensure that essential medical care is accessible, both financially and geographically, for those in need is growing steadily and is not shared equally. With the diversion of less acutely ill and more affluent patients to competing outpatient settings, community hospitals and nursing homes serve an increasingly disproportionate share of the more acutely ill, difficult to serve, and less affluent population. These changes will produce serious dislocations if not kept within bounds.
With rapid population growth, recent increases in demand, and the maturation of the regional health care system, careful planning is necessary if the system is to remain efficient, cost-effective, and responsive to the needs of residents of the region. HSANV works closely with community hospitals and other service providers in planning for projects that that enhance the region’s health care system.