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St. Luke's Blogs

Why Add Beds?

By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
April 24, 2012

With all the talk of reducing costly hospital stays, why does it make sense for St. Luke’s to build more hospital bed capacity?

This is one of the questions I got from Dr. Don Berwick, the former president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and former administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services who spoke at our St. Luke’s Health System Summit in February, and it’s one of the most frequent questions I get from those who know that we are pursuing accountable care and who are aware of our expansion plans in the Treasure Valley.

We have already cut bed projections by more than half to account for the improvements we will make under accountable care, but our projections indicate that more beds are needed and will be needed in the future.

Here’s why:

Current needs. We already have strong demands for hospital beds that on occasion press us to capacity.  Even if we were spectacularly successful in implementing accountable care today, while some hospitalizations could possibly be avoided, there are many people with chronic diseases that will continue to create demand for hospitalization. 

Further, there are many people out there with significant risk factors that will not take the steps necessary to prevent the onset of chronic disease, and they will be added to the large population with chronic disease we are already managing.

Changing demographics. The population is aging and hospital bed demands increase with age. 

Population growth. It is anticipated that growth in the Treasure Valley will cause a doubling of the population within the next 10 years.

Illness and injury. Some illnesses and injuries simply are not preventable. Despite our advancements in medical knowledge, not all illnesses can be prevented, and many require hospitalization. 

Further, despite our best efforts to get people to take preventative measures with vaccines, many people continue to contract preventable infections, such as influenza. Those infections often result in hospitalization, especially when the patient is elderly.  

And accidents will still occur and people will still incur injuries, despite our best efforts at accident prevention.

Distribution of hospital beds. We believe that more beds will be required in areas where we currently do not have hospitals, for example, Nampa, Caldwell, and Fruitland.

Shifts in the market.  If we are successful and can demonstrate better health, better care, and lower costs of care, our Triple Aim, patients will move to us. 

I believe that there is an opportunity for us to attract large employers outside of Idaho that will employ within the state if there is the incentive of predictably lower costs and better outcomes of care.

If we are successful, our ability to improve employee health and productivity (e.g., decreased days missed from work) and provide lower-cost health care benefits and world-class care will attract more businesses to Idaho and expand the population and worker base.

About The Author

David C. Pate, M.D., J.D., is president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho. Dr. Pate joined the System in 2009. He received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.