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St. Luke's Blogs

St. Luke's, Saltzer Medical Group, and the Value of Relationships

By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
November 26, 2012

You may have seen an ad by the Saltzer Medical Group this weekend in the local papers. If you missed it, here it is: Expect More From Medicine

There is a tremendous amount of misinformation being circulated about the integration of Saltzer Medical Group and St. Luke’s, and there is no better party to set the record straight on some of these issues than the Saltzer Medical Group physicians who personally signed the ad. The Saltzer Medical Group is an outstanding group of physicians with whom St. Luke's has been proud to be affiliated with for a number of years, and I am proud that they are standing up and making themselves heard. St. Luke's did not contribute to the development or the cost of this ad.

I would like to make several points:

  • For more than 100 years, St. Luke’s has been serving patients throughout the region, regardless of ability to pay. We remain Idaho’s only locally-governed health care system and we remain committed to acting only in the best interests of the patients we serve.
  • St. Luke's presence and service in Nampa, where historically there has only been one hospital, give patients a choice of hospital providers. Arguments to the contrary defy common sense and would appear self-serving.
  • St. Luke's employs and contracts with physicians whose practices are based in a number of communities where St. Luke's does not have hospitals. We have always been committed to those physicians practicing at and supporting those local hospitals, including Saint Alphonsus hospitals.
  • St. Luke’s does not impose itself on physicians. It would never occur to us to file a lawsuit to prevent an independent physician or physician group from working for any organization they wish. We also don’t feel that any physician, including one that is employed or contracted, owes us their referral. We work to earn the trust and confidence of physicians every day. If they refer patients to us, we appreciate that. My wife was referred to a Saint Alphonsus physician because of a particular problem she had. We received excellent care, and it was the proper thing for her physician to do.
  • Our discussions with Saltzer physicians have always accounted for and encouraged those physicians to continue their practice at Saint Alphonsus’ Nampa hospital. While Saint Al's continues to allege that a St. Luke's integration with Saltzer will result in decreased admissions to their Nampa hospital, an allegation that we strongly disagree with and will refute, it seems Saint Al’s leadership fails to recognize that their own actions and statements have done more to harm physician relationships and referrals than anything St. Luke's would ever do.
  • For more of Saltzer Medical Group’s perspective, here is a link to a “Reader’s View” piece written by Dr. John Kaiser, Saltzer president.
St. Luke’s vision is to transform health care by aligning with physicians and other providers to deliver integrated, seamless, and patient-centered quality care across all St. Luke’s settings. Our strategy is to create a clinically integrated network of physicians that will work together to manage the health of populations, hopefully avoiding the need for hospitalization through better care in a more coordinated manner, greater value to the patients, and lower costs for our communities. Productive, respectful relationships with physicians are critical for us to achieve our vision.

It is about relationships. It is about physicians being able to work with and refer their patients wherever they wish. And it is about transforming health care, not generating more hospital admissions. We will not get health care costs down by continuing to focus on additional hospital admissions. We have to achieve the Triple Aim of better health, better care, and lower costs. The people of Idaho are counting on us to do this for them and with them. I want to get on with the transformation, and I believe you do as well.

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.