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St. Luke's and Saltzer 'absolutely the right thing to do ...'

Shelley Beers, R.N., works with new medical storage safety signage posted nearby. The St. Luke’s relationship has led to improved safety for patients and staff members.
By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
July 2, 2013

I knew when I took this job that collaboration with community and other health organizations and partnerships with physicians were strategic advantages that St. Luke’s has in the region.

St. Luke’s is about relationships and finding ways to build on those relationships to better serve our communities.  That is what we are doing with Saltzer Medical Group, which formally became part of the St. Luke’s family at the end of 2012. 

I asked my blog editor, Roya Camp, to interview folks at Saltzer Medical Group to find out what it is like to be part of St. Luke’s Health System, what is different, and how we are working together. Her report follows.

What have the first six months of Saltzer Medical Group’s affiliation with St. Luke’s meant?

Improved patient safety, stepped-up professional collaboration, and myriad opportunities for career growth, according to Saltzer leadership.

It also has underscored any number of other opportunities that Saltzer Medical Group President Dr. John Kaiser and Chief Executive Officer Bill Savage hope can be pursued through the St. Luke’s affiliation in the not-too-distant future.

Savage and Dr. Kaiser took time recently to reflect on what’s happened since the affiliation was finalized in January.

St. Luke’s, they said, has made access to quality measures possible, opening the door to new population health management strategies and improved chronic disease and diabetic management.  

“I think it’s been great,” Dr. Kaiser said. “I think the areas where it has been an unanticipated benefit have to do with the resources that we’ve been able to call upon, things like getting quality data. We were never able to do that before, nor would we have the time to be able to do it.”

Both men said the affiliation also has been meaningful in terms of staff support and resources. Based on the new information regarding diabetes patients, plans are in the works to integrate St. Luke’s diabetes educators into Saltzer settings.

The support of diabetes educators will allow a tailored-care approach that hasn’t been possible previously. And Savage and Dr. Kaiser believe that the new data and staffing collaborations could pave the way to a similar model applied to other conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure.

Alignment with St. Luke’s has been easier than some Saltzer team members anticipated, the executives said. It has built trust and confidence that solutions can and will be found to any issues that arise.

“Given the task at hand, I think everybody has been impressed at how smoothly the transition went,” Savage said. “The two organizations together have been amazing. Luke’s has been very open. It’s not, ‘My way or the highway.’ It’s what works best for Saltzer.

“They’re very open to looking at how we’re doing things. I’ve never felt that things were just dictated to us. They are very sensitive to physicians and staff, and how everything is going. They want to make sure they preserve that relationship, almost above everything. It’s a mindset of solutions.”

Nursing policies, procedures, and protocols, enhanced support for staff members and mid-level managers, and pooled information about best practices when it comes to clinic management and compliance that can be standardized across Saltzer settings, all are vital forms of assistance that are improving care for the medical group’s patients.

Non-clinical staff members are collaborating on everything from information technology to marketing.

And physicians employed by St. Luke’s have filled vital gaps, benefiting urology and cardiology patients in particular.

And the learning has gone both ways. St. Luke’s has been interested to find out about Saltzer’s staffing arrangements in some instances, Savage noted, and information

about IT, imaging, and lab operations also has been shared.

“I think this was absolutely the right thing to do,” Dr. Kaiser said.

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.