According to a new article in Hospitals & Health Networks, a national journal for health system leaders, Intermountain is one of eight U.S. health systems leading the nation in improving healthcare value. Written by Dan Beckham, president of a strategic healthcare consulting firm, Intermountain is discussed along with Advocate Health Care in Illinois, Banner Health in Arizona, Baylor Scott & White Health in Texas, the Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, and Sentara Healthcare in Virginia.
Long-term focus on better care is what makes the eight systems into national role models. "For at least three decades, these eight health systems have shared a single value proposition — the delivery of integrated care," the article said. "For these eight organizations, integration has been about creating a connected and coordinated system that delivers care distinguished by markedly enhanced value, including quality, safety, accessibility, satisfaction, and affordability."
Our unrelenting focus on quality is specifically praised by the article. "While many health systems treated total quality management and its variants as a passing fad, Intermountain dug in and made it a way of life," it said. "The presence of Intermountain contributes greatly to Utah's position as one of America's healthiest places to live."
The article spotlights ten strategies used by Intermountain and the other seven health systems that have dramatically increased value —strategies it suggested should be adopted by other health systems:
- Offer advanced capabilities to sustain consumer awareness and preference.
- Use data to fortify quality: "Differentiation on the basis of quality had to be demonstrated with data showing superior outcomes," the article said. "Because of their higher levels of integration, these systems have been able to provide such evidence."
- Standardize care processes and management: "It is impossible to deliver a high-quality service without the reliability and consistency standardization delivers."
- Require teamwork: "To have an impact, teamwork can't be optional, and it must be facilitated by structure and technology."
- Develop partnerships of trust with physicians: "There's no way to foster productive physician involvement without including physicians as trusted partners in the system's most important work."
- Create proximity and productivity through electronic connections: "It's not practical to move all physicians and patient care into close physical proximity. The benefits of proximity and connection have to be created electronically."
- Manage risk: "These health systems embraced and managed risk in its many forms — in new ventures, in innovation, and in business arrangements."
- Pursue growth that expands access and influence: "The best use of size is to make expertise and services more broadly available."
- Restructure to enhance integration: "These health systems either designed themselves from the onset for integration or fundamentally restructured themselves to enhance connections, communication, and coordination systemwide."
- Cultivate networks: "The most recent phase in integrating these health systems has been their investment in extending themselves beyond their core campuses and facilities through networks of affiliation…Through arrangements that resemble franchising of intellectual property, these health systems are leveraging their deep investments in expertise and innovation."
The article also noted a few other things that the eight health systems all have in common that have likely contributed to their success, especially a consistent focus on improving value over many years. They've also all had consistent leadership — with CEO tenures averaging 14 years — and they've all made it mandatory to reduce the variation and waste that reduce quality and drive up costs.
"I believe many other health systems can accelerate and strengthen their commitment to value by emulating the lessons these eight embody," the article concluded. "No commitment will serve U.S. healthcare better."
Read the entire Hospital & Health Network article, 8 Ways to Chart a Savvy Course to Integrated Care.