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In the Top 50: Why Being a System Matters

By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
July 23, 2012

St. Luke’s is young as far as health systems go. We just celebrated our sixth birthday. 

And we are considered medium-sized according to criteria set by Thomson Reuters, the firm that ranks health systems. 

From among the 321 health care systems across the United States, St. Luke’s was selected as one of the top 50, and we were one of the top 21 of 103 total medium-sized health systems. We don’t know our exact rankings within those two categories. 

The criteria used to select the top 50 included performance as measured by:

  • Mortality index, the actual number of deaths compared with the number expected based upon the severity of illness. The top 21 medium-sized health systems tended to have a 24 percent lower mortality than their peers.
  • Complications index, the actual number of complications compared with the number expected based upon the severity of illness and types of procedures patients underwent. The top 21 medium-sized health systems tended to have a 14.5 percent lower mortality than their peers.
  • Patient safety index, the actual number of patient safety incidents compared with other health systems. The top 21 medium-sized health systems tended to have 22 percent fewer adverse events than their peers.
  • Core measures mean percent
  • 30-day mortality rate for heart attacks
  • 30-day mortality rate for heart failure
  • 30-day mortality rate for pneumonia
  • 30-day readmission rate
  • 30-day readmission rate for heart failure patients
  • 30-day readmission rate for patients with pneumonia
  • Average length of stay
  • HCAHPS patient satisfaction scores
Being a Top 50 Health System means we’re well on our way to being a national leader in health care. 

Thomson Reuters, which is now Truven Health Analytics, just released Hospital System Membership and Performance, a study conducted to try to answer whether hospitals perform better as a member of a health system or independently. 

Their conclusion? 

“Hospitals that are part of systems not only provide more cost-efficient care, but they also deliver a higher quality of care,” Modern Healthcare reported in its June 18 edition.

There are many reasons why hospitals may perform better when they are part of a health system, and we have certainly seen this to be the case here at St. Luke’s. Among those reasons:

  • Economies of scale
  • Access to capital and technology
  • Ability to better coordinate care and manage transitions of care across the continuum
  • Greater access to expertise in leadership, such as the expertise provided by a system chief quality officer
  • Greater access to specialty physicians who can provide expertise in developing protocols that incorporate evidence-based practices
  • Importing and exporting of best practices from one hospital or ambulatory setting to another
  • Less duplication of high-cost, high-risk services through a system-coordinated scope of service that channels patients to centers of excellence, especially where volume has correlated with outcomes
  • Integration of health information
  • Strength in governance
 We have seen strong improvements in our quality metrics since taking a system approach to quality.  We can be proud that we are leading the way in Idaho, and we anticipate that before long, we will increasingly be leading the way nationally as well. 

 Our journey is to not only be the leader in quality and safety, but to transform health care so that we promote health and lower the total cost for people in all the communities we serve. 

 Congratulations to each of you. I’m always grateful for all that St. Luke’s physicians, employees, volunteers, board members, and friends do every day to help our vision come to fruition. Our patients, their families, and caregivers are an especially important part of this transformation, and I’m also thankful for the support we receive from all of you.

 We are well on our way, given such a short time. What an amazing journey, and I thank you. More importantly, our patients and the families of all those patients thank you!

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.