Medical City Healthcare’s Bert Witherspoon on the health tech he wishes were real

Witherspoon serves as Medical City Healthcare’s EMS coordinator.
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Bert Witherspoon

· 3 min read

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This week’s Making Rounds spotlights Bert Witherspoon, an emergency medical services (EMS) coordinator at the Dallas-based health system Medical City Healthcare, which is part of Nashville-based HCA Healthcare. Witherspoon talked about his work promoting his hospital’s service lines (how hospitals group the types of services they offer, like oncology or cardiology), and the healthcare trends he’s least and most optimistic about and why.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How would you describe your specific job to someone who doesn’t work in healthcare?

My main responsibilities include promotion over the four big service lines that we offer at our hospital, which are burn, trauma, ECMO [extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a type of life support], and stroke. What I do is go out to other healthcare entities and promote and do outreach for those service lines. A lot of the outreach is making the other healthcare entities understand all the services we offer, what we can do for their patients, how they can get patients to us, and how we can help the continuity of care.

What healthcare trend are you most optimistic about and why?

More healthcare surgical procedures are moving to the outpatient setting. Physicians often take surgical cases to hospitals, which drives up the overall cost of healthcare. By providing the surgeons an efficient, expedient service, they can better serve their patient populations and reduce the cost of healthcare industrywide. The interesting part about that is that hospitals typically get paid a lot more for the same surgeries than ambulatory surgery centers do, and because of that, the operating margin at a surgery center is usually a lot less. But the costs to the payers, whether they be the private self-paying individual, commercial insurance, or even Medicare and Medicaid, are much, much reduced compared to hospitals.

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What healthcare trend are you least optimistic about and why?

Value-based care. The paradigm shift toward value-based care has proven less successful than anticipated. The healthcare system hasn’t been able to show consistent, significant savings. If the US government truly wants value-based care to work, they’re going to have to give everybody some buy-in, and not everybody has buy-in yet. Until both not-for-profit and the for-profit systems—as well as Medicare, Medicaid, and all the other government-funded healthcare payers—are on board, it’s going to be hard to accomplish value-based care.

What’s one piece of health technology that you wish existed today?

Being able to link someone’s driver’s license or passport with their electronic health record. If somebody has an accident or a medical emergency where they’re incapacitated in such a way that they can’t give answers to the first responders, a lot of times their medical history is just guessed. Tying it to driver’s licenses, or identification cards or passports, would allow us to use technology to scan that information and come up with some of their medical information so that we would know how to treat them instead of guessing.

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