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'We knock it out of the park ...'

By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
September 17, 2012

I’ve asked St. Luke’s Health System Vice President of Human Resources Maureen O'Keeffe to share her thoughts about how we're transforming and information about her background and skills. Her insights are presented here. I’ve introduced Maureen in a previous post, and you’ll be hearing more from her and other members of our executive team in this space in the future.

I am fortunate to serve as the vice president of human resources for St. Luke’s Health System. In the more than seven years that I have been in this role, we have doubled the number of St. Luke’s employees, from about 5,600 to more than 10,300 today!  

Prior to taking this role, I served for eight years as the leader of strategic planning for St. Luke’s.  It was an exciting time as we went through tremendous change, but when Ed Dahlberg, our former System chief executive officer, asked me to consider human resources, I didn’t hesitate. What is more strategic in health care than people? What is more critical? It has been the best professional decision I ever made.

My education and professional path took many directions that prepared me for my current position. My undergraduate degree is in aviation. Seriously.  My first job was in strategic planning at J.R. Simplot Co., and with their encouragement and support, I completed my MBA, moving on to financial services and buying failing banks for Moore Financial. This provided great experience, enabling me to dissect what made a successful operation or a failing one. 

I became a financial analyst at Hewlett Packard, and learned what links a business line with the heart of an organization. I taught at night as an adjunct faculty member at College of Idaho for a couple of years, and learned presentation skills and how to translate data into meaningful information.

Then I found health care—and found purpose. Is there anything more noble, or more humbling, than to be part of the life experience that connects us all, no matter who we are? Whatever you do at St. Luke’s, you are part of this fabric that wraps around patients and the people who care about them. It’s magical.

And it’s exciting. I wanted to share with you my perspective on some of the key transitions that are under way or pending at St. Luke’s. Our new adventure with SelectHealth is a great example. It is a departure for us, and just what we need to do to be sure we will be here to serve our mission for the long run. We have long been held to the business interests of payors, and payors don’t always think of our mission when they construct payment. 

We understand. We know our margins will become tighter, and we need to have a partner that is committed to share the financial benefit we achieve as we become more efficient at delivering care. We believe SelectHealth is that partner, and we will become their first big customer. In April, they will become our partner in administering St. Luke’s health plan.

In addition to the SelectHealth change, the HR Division is supporting and leading many other transitions to prepare us for future success. Here are some of those initiatives:

  • Our Healthy U efforts have been a home run. We are looking at how we expand this effort to include a focus around healthy BMIresults and connections with people who are on our health plan but who are not our employees. 
  • We are beginning work to support employees who are ill with diseases or conditions that make them more vulnerable. You will hear more about this as “Healthy U Co-PARtner,” which stands for Care of the Patient at Risk. Every year, we look at changes to benefits that provide the right mix between what is needed and what we can afford, so this program may be reflected in our health plan going forward. With one difference (the St. Luke’s Magic Valley retirement plan), all St. Luke’s benefits are aligned now.
  • We continue work toward ONE employee experience across our System. Changing people’s work experience takes patience, and engaging people in conversations about what, when, and why things will change is important and takes time. So we’re moving ahead diligently and carefully. 
  • Our next wave of compensation alignment is pending final approval. We expect that this development will further create environments that support market-competitive pay and pay practices, without site differences that can cause confusion and frustration.
  • Education and Organizational Development are plowing new ground to develop classroom and electronic programs to share knowledge. We are also working on cutting-edge simulation training for clinical and leadership skills. The future will require all of us to be on top of our game, so we’ll all be moving toward a single performance appraisal system over the next year —talk about a transition!
There is no shortage of opportunities for our skilled HR team. Our passion for our work drives us through tough issues and long days. Beyond my own team, I would be remiss if I didn’t let you all know that is EXACTLY how I feel about all the folks at St. Luke’s. I often shake my head at how lucky we are to have such talented individuals here.   

We aren’t perfect every day—but we are darn close. We aren’t perfect every time—but as a team, we knock it out of the park. I’m glad to be part of the team, for getting to serve as a St. Luke’s leader, and for this opportunity to share with 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.