I’ve asked St. Luke’s Health System Vice President of Regional Relations Rich Holm to share his perspectives on our collaborations with the region's rural communities. His thoughts are presented here. You’ll be hearing more from Rich and other members of our executive team in this space in the future.
My family has been connected in some capacity with St. Luke’s and affiliated St. Luke’s hospitals for many years.
My wife, Ellen, was born at St. Luke's Boise, as were our two children. Ellen's father, George Weick, M.D., was a pediatrician who practiced at St. Luke's for more than 40 years, and took his turn as chief of staff during Gil Gilbertson's administration of the hospital.
My aunt Lillian graduated from St. Luke's School of Nursing in the late 1930s, and my uncle Norman, who is now 101 years old, served for many years on the Weiser hospital board. My mother was born at the Weiser hospital.
My family’s strong ties to Idaho and its rural communities influence my job on a daily basis. I serve as vice president of regional relations, and I’ve worked with Idaho’s rural hospitals for nearly 40 years.
Helping to establish mutually beneficial relationships between St. Luke’s and rural communities is one of my primary areas of focus. Essentially, this boils down to helping patients in our region receive high-quality health care close to home.
There are various ways we accomplish this.
Our regional relationships are built around trust and respect, using complementary, cooperative, and collaborative models. We are extremely fortunate to have excellent clinicians, staff members, volunteers, foundation members, and board governance throughout the region. Our experience tells us that the stronger the primary care is in the region, the better the outcome is as the patient moves through the continuum of care.
Not only do these relationships help to build a health care network that patients can access in their own backyard, there is also two-way sharing of expertise and resources, which ultimately provides lower costs to hospitals and patients alike (bulk supply ordering, access to specialized doctors, administrative services, etc.).
I’d like to share a personal example of how a member of my family was able to have access to St. Luke’s continuum of care.
We recently received a phone call from our daughter. She had taken our 2-year-old grandson to the St. Luke's Boise Emergency Department. He had been experiencing pain and wouldn't tolerate walking or riding in a car seat because of it.
Upon arrival, they were quickly sent to triage and soon seen by an emergency physician. The following morning at our St. Luke's pediatric urologist's office, the nurse practitioner reassured my daughter and her family that our grandson was fine and needed a routine topical ointment for the next two months.
Once they felt better about the situation, they asked if they could travel to McCall, and nurse practitioner Ben pointed out our St. Luke's presence there.
Ben was right. The ointment worked, and there was a network of resources available to our family across counties. Our daughter was also encouraged to use St. Luke’s electronic medical record, myStLuke’s. When she called her son’s pediatrician’s office, they were able to access notes from his emergency department visit and the prescriptions recommended by the urologist’s office.
Examples like this, and increased access to telemedicine including our eICU, a remotely supported intensive care unit, illustrate how the patient experience will only continue to improve. Such efforts position us well for the new world of accountable care.
Idaho is a very rural state with a diverse landscape and geographic, economic, and demographic differences. Our rural communities face similar challenges, but may require very different solutions.
For example, some of Idaho’s more remote recreational areas, such as the Wood River Valley and McCall, experience the shoulder seasons of October, November, April, and May, when St. Luke’s sites often experience lower patient volumes and accompanying staffing and other challenges.
Currently, St. Luke’s has critical access hospitals and facilities in Jerome, McCall, and the Wood River Valley, and management contract relationships in Weiser, Challis, Gooding, Mountain Home, Stanley, and Weiser. As a health system, we are better positioned to support these hospitals with shared resources.
A great example of how our relationships develop is the equity partnership recently created between St. Luke’s and Elmore Medical Center in Mountain Home.
Elmore is slated to become an equity partner on April 1 of this year. This journey began several years ago, when the Elmore Medical Center board requested a deeper affiliation with St. Luke’s.
This process has included extensive public input, along with the development of a definitive agreement and a hospital services agreement that went before the people of the Elmore Medical Center Hospital District for a vote last year.
The result was overwhelmingly in favor of the equity relationship which will create an alignment between a hospital and an established medical network.
I believe that St. Luke’s regional relationships truly bring value to the patient experience and continuum of care, and support our mission to improve the health of the people in our region.
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.