Our Integrated Approach
Intermountain's evolution into an integrated system was completed in phases. When the organization was founded in 1975, it was comprised of 15 hospitals. By 1985, it was a multi-hospital system that granted its hospitals such a degree of autonomy that these facilities competed with each other. SelectHealth (then called IHC Health Plans) had recently been created, but it existed as a satellite and interacted little with other parts of Intermountain. Nearly all the physicians who practiced at Intermountain were independent.
The first phase of integration (1985-1992) was the integration of Intermountain hospitals. Hospitals were reorganized into regions, and hospital Governing Boards followed suit. Management was consolidated and took on regional responsibilities. Intermountain hospitals began to cooperate instead of compete with each other.
The second phase of integration (1992-present) was system integration. By the mid-1990s, Intermountain had all the pieces in place to make vertical integration work: hospitals, the Intermountain Medical Group of employed physicians, and SelectHealth.
Benefits of integration:
1. Clinical quality. Whether through its clinical programs or the way it can improve the treatment of certain chronic diseases, all three Intermountain divisions—Health Services, SelectHealth, and the Intermountain Medical Group—contribute in essential ways to the sharing of best medical practices, and raising the standards of clinical excellence.
An example: In treating diabetes, SelectHealth helps educate all its enrollees about the causes, dangers, and warning signs of diabetes. Members who are diagnosed with diabetes are contacted regularly by SelectHealth with educational materials and reminders about tests they need to help manage their disease. At the primary care level, through the Intermountain Medical Group, Intermountain offers programs like the diabetes care manager, where a care manager works directly with diabetic patients to help them stay on their programs and access the many resources available through Intermountain. If a diabetic patient requires hospitalization, the "hand-off" between the primary care physician and the secondary care physician and hospital team is seamless. The entire Intermountain team, from health plan to hospital, is communicating well and working together to ensure the patient receives the best possible care.
2. Service quality. Some examples of the way integration can help improve service quality: SelectHealth offers a Member Advocate service that members can call for help in accessing various Intermountain services. Patient billing has been simplified, and programs are being developed in which patients will be able to access, online, both their SelectHealth information and their medical records.
3. Lower costs. In a vertically integrated organization like Intermountain, costs aren't just reduced through economies of scale and efficient management. The really significant cost reductions are achieved by improving the total process of medical care. By identifying and implementing best medical practices—what works best—Intermountain not only provides quality healthcare; it often achieves lasting improvement in cost structures. And those savings help Intermountain maintain the financial strength required to provide free care to those unable to pay.
4. Prevention. Incentives and resources of doctors, hospitals, and health plans are aligned to help people stay well.
5. Scope of service. With hospitals, physician clinics, health plans, home health agencies, occupational medicine clinics, and other services, Intermountain provides a relatively seamless continuum of care.