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St. Luke's Appeal: Let the Progress Continue

By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
June 12, 2014

St. Luke’s Health System has set out to be a national leader in health care. About 300 leaders from across our region worked together to develop our strategy and we have been very transparent, sharing most of our strategy documents through my blog and our website.

Our vision centers upon a transformation to accountable care and the development of our ability to provide population health. We have had great support from our communities, the many physicians who share this vision, and our boards of community volunteer representatives.

Improving the health of the people in our region will dramatically lower healthcare costs over time. This is no simple undertaking. Health systems and hospitals haven’t historically been in the health promotion business, so this is a big shift.

And the current reimbursement system rewards doing things to patients, rather than incentivizing providers to make serious investments in the health and wellness of people who are not ill. This is one of the reasons that it is so important for St. Luke’s to be able to engage directly with physicians, so that we can begin to align incentives around those things that bring the greatest value to our patients.

Another key initiative to achieving our vision has been for us to partner with an insurance company to work toward making insurance premiums more affordable. Our partnership with SelectHealth has done exactly that. Business representatives have indicated that SelectHealth’s entry into this market has slowed premium increases that they would otherwise have incurred.

We’re also working to develop integrated, seamless, patient-centered, quality care, and have implemented mySt.Luke’s, our electronic health records system. Now patients have access to their online medical records, and all of their St. Luke’s Clinic physicians also have access to the same information, to ensure better and safer care. 

St. Luke’s was the first and only healthcare provider in Idaho to be federally designated by Medicare as an Accountable Care Organization. In our first year, St. Luke’s was a top performer in many of the 33 quality measures compared with other ACOs, some of them leading organizations across the country. We’re succeeding by engaging physicians and providing them with meaningful, actionable data and tools developed with WhiteCloud Analytics. 

We have also developed new programs to better coordinate care for those with chronic illnesses. These efforts have been recognized by Regence Blue Shield of Idaho and by the Pacific Business Group on Health, which has asked us to be one of 25 participants in a care coordination program funded by a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation grant.

Today, St. Luke’s filed its appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking for a reversal of the Jan. 24 decision by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ordering St. Luke’s divestiture of Saltzer Medical Group.

Since the January ruling, St. Luke’s has received additional validation confirming the course we have charted from objective outside organizations, and Truven Health Analytics recently named St. Luke’s one of the Top 15 Health Systems in the country.

In his ruling, the judge stated that “[t]he Acquisition [of Saltzer Medical Group] was intended by St. Luke’s and Saltzer primarily to improve patient outcomes. The Court is convinced that it would have that effect if left intact, and St. Luke’s is to be applauded for its efforts to improve the delivery of health care in the Treasure Valley.” 

We have known from the beginning that making the changes necessary to fix health care would be difficult. As I reflect on the work that has been done, I see good progress. I also see that there is much left to do, and I still believe that St. Luke’s and the exceptional providers we work with are uniquely positioned to have a positive impact on behalf of the patients we serve.

It is our hope that the appeals court will permit our affiliation with Saltzer to move forward so we can continue the good work we started. We believe the district court erred in its conclusion that St. Luke’s acquisition of Saltzer Medical Group would have anticompetitive effects, and disregarded the substantial procompetitive benefits the court believed would have resulted if the acquisition were to stand.

To read the documents filed by St. Luke’s, visit http://news.stlukesblogs.org/legal-and-regulatory-issues/.

 

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.