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Carroll Hospital CEO John Sernulka Looks at the Future of Healthcare

Carroll Hospital Center is preparing to undergo significant expansion in the coming years, find out what the man running it all has to say.

John Sernulka has been with Carroll Hospital Center since 1989 and in that time the facility has seen much growth. Sernulka said that Carroll Hospital Center is not only unique in its geographic positioning, but it's also a pioneer, leading the state in some areas.

Carroll Hospital Center is embarking on several new initiatives, including a state-of-the-art cancer center and wellness center, a stroke center, robotic surgery and increased cardiac services. Sernulka said that the cancer center and wellness center are the cornerstones for the other initiatives and the project should be completed around the fall of 2014. 

"We estimate a 20 percent increase in cancer cases over the next 10 years," Sernulka told Patch. "It [cancer] will continue to be a challenge for us in health care and we want to make sure we have the right facilities here in the community."

According to Sernulka, by expanding the program to about three times its current size, Carroll's cancer center will be large enough that it can join with an academic center and embark on specialized clinical trials. Additionally, Sernulka said that the expansion will allow for cancer subspecialists to be brought in, such as pediatric cancer specialists and gynecological specialists. 

One only needs to watch a political debate to know that health care and health management are hot topics. Sernulka said that the future for hospital CEOs will include managing a community's health services as opposed to just managing what happens inside the walls of the hospital itself. 

"When I look at my career of 35 years in hospital administration, it was all about building a regional hospital that housed in one place all kinds of services a community would need for health care," Sernulka said. "The CEO of the future wil be managing a community approach to health care."

"The CEO of the future will manage all the moving parts," Sernulka said. "It's no longer about running the hospital as the core of everything, it’s running a community health system."

Sernulka said that advances in medical technology and treatment has allowed for more out-patient care, which is less costly. Additionally, he said that health care is increasingly focusing more on wellness as opposed to acute care.

"The big future of health care is for hospitals and docs to link up what they’re each doing to eliminate waste and duplication and so each knows what the other is doing for the patient," Sernulka said. "Coordination is the future of health care."

Making sure Carroll Hospital Center stays at the forefront of medicine as well as health care is important to Sernulka. He said that Carroll County is fortunate to have a centrally-located hospital that has an outstanding reputation and prides itself on offering family-oriented care. But he notes that monitoring where Carroll Hospital Center fits into the bigger picture is a constant task.

"Nationally, there are consolidations forming, alliances, partnerships going on. We have to stay focused on that and make sure that whatever big model evolves, that Carroll fits into that system," Sernulka said.  "That is an ongoing fiduciary responsibility that we owe to the community and our own organization. We’re constantly monitoring what big systems are doing and where does Carroll fit into that."

Sernulka said that he loves his job because he loves helping people and he enjoys organizing processes that allow teams of people to accomplish great things. But he also said that there are frustrations, including having to make trade-offs based on available resources. 

"I ask myself, 'Will the system be financially and economically strong enough to allow us to do all the great things I have a vision for?'," Sernulka said. "We do make trade-offs every year, we can't do everything we want." 

Sernulka said that as a nonprofit, the hospital has to be creative in using its money to reinvest in itself. He said rates are regulated in Maryland so the hospital has to work within the rates set for services by a state agency. 

"As a nonprofit, the money we make gets recycled back into the hospital," Sernulka said. "We have to manage money very carefully so we have money left over to reinvest in ourselves and do all this new and exciting stuff."

Visit www.carrollhospitalcenter.org to learn more about hospital programs. 

Buck Harmon October 05, 2012 at 08:32 PM
One of the big things that Carroll Hospital Center does not offer is geriatric care for seniors that have memory or other issues that need care. I believe that there is a huge grey zone that seniors fall into when seeking this kind of care at the Carroll Hospital Center. I think it may have something to do with getting paid by insurance companies for the kind of care that these seniors need. The items listed in this article are real money makers for the hospital that are well paid by most insurance policies. Seniors currently seem to get slighted because the Hospital has NO geriatric care to offer what so ever....the grey zone needs to be addressed for future seniors.
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