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Dr. Pate’s Prescription for Change

St. Luke’s Health System’s Journey to Transform Health Care

St. Luke’s Jeff Taylor: Taking pride in our collective accomplishments

By Jeff Taylor, News and Community
December 17, 2019

St. Luke’s Health System has come a long way, from being a little-recognized health system in Idaho to a nationally recognized organization that is among the country’s top performers in quality and safety, one that is leading the way in the business model transformation from fee for service to value/global capitation without owning, in part or in whole, an insurance company.

There are many factors that have contributed to our success. Today’s guest blogger, Jeff Taylor, senior vice president and chief financial officer for St. Luke’s Health System, explores a few of those reasons.

- David C. Pate, M.D., J.D.


Jeff Taylor
St. Luke's Health System senior vice president and chief financial officer, Jeff Taylor.

We have recently closed on fiscal 2019 for St. Luke’s Health System, and I’ve been thinking a lot about decisions we’ve made in the past, their impact on our performance and our ability to honor the commitment that we have made to improving care and lowering costs.

This past year, we’ve met or exceeded nearly all of our goals from both a financial and clinical perspective. Compared with others, it’s an unusual – and enviable – position to be in. When our organization does well, we all benefit, because that allows us to allocate the resources necessary to continue to invest wisely and secure our future.

We were founded in Idaho and have been a community asset now for more than 100 years. That alone distinguishes us; over the past half-century, while other high-profile Idaho institutions, some founded years after we were, have gone out of business, been folded into larger companies based elsewhere or been folded into larger companies and then gone out of business, we are thriving.

I think there are reasons for that, and that’s what I want to look at here.

We have been steadfast. It’s widely recognized that the fee-for-service payment model is largely to blame for runaway cost increases and perverse incentives, but few health-care organizations have been willing to change.

That has not been the case for us. We have been consistent in our commitment to change the payment model. Nearly one-third of our revenue is now tied to value and we have passed the tipping point that reduces our financial risk, accelerating our ability to lower cost and improve quality.  

St. Luke’s history has been grounded in taking measured, thoughtful action. Some, even within our organization, might say we’re slow to move, but our track record suggests that when we reach a decision, we move in the right direction. Our pivot to value is no different. This shift provides a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous advantage to St. Luke’s, and I’m confident in our ability to excel in this new era of health care.

We have been anticipatory. The components necessary for us to be successful in this new environment have been under development for many years. We have assembled the best caregivers committed to all those that we serve. We have affiliated with, constructed and/or invested in necessary facilities throughout the region, and we have entered into business arrangements with payers and others that support our transformation. 

These investments have provided the foundation upon which we operate today and allow us to execute our strategy.

We have been partners. We can be very proud of the number and depth of meaningful partnerships and relationships St. Luke’s has with community organizations.  We serve on their boards, and they serve on ours. Hundreds of members of the St. Luke’s team volunteer for food banks, homeless shelters, refugee programs, free health clinics and many other agencies that make life better for all those living in our cities and towns.

These are smart, dedicated business representatives, physicians, nurses and other professionals, all invested in the wellbeing of Idaho and Idahoans. Due to the quality of our services and our very active participation in civic life, we are the preferred provider by a wide margin, and we are in a position to have an enormous impact on behalf of the communities we serve, more now than ever before.

On a related note, I have had the privilege of serving on the board of the College of Idaho for the past six years and currently serve as board chair. The college is doing very well, with near-record enrollment levels and national recognition for its performance. 

My involvement with the college allows me to learn and expand my knowledge about higher education, an industry faced with significant affordability and cost pressures similar to health care. In turn, college representatives have the opportunity to learn from us. 

The College of Idaho’s success is similar to ours, in that the organization has been true to its heritage and mission, yet willing to adapt and change as necessary to continue to get better as an organization, in a climate of enormous industry pressure.     

Their success, like ours, is good for Idaho.

About The Author

Jeff Taylor is senior vice president and chief financial officer of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho.