President Barack Obama is the latest national leader to praise Intermountain Healthcare for providing the kind of healthcare America needs. In a speech last Thursday in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the President said: "Even within our own country, a lot of the places where we spend less on healthcare actually have higher quality than places where we spend more. (Video courtesy of KUTV News.)
"We have to ask why places like the Geisinger Health system in rural Pennsylvania, Intermountain Health in Salt Lake City, or communities like Green Bay can offer high-quality care at costs well below average, but other places in America can't. We need to identify the best practices across the country, learn from the success, and replicate that success elsewhere," he said.
"We're pleased to be cited as a model of how healthcare can be improved," says Greg Poulsen, senior vice president of Intermountain Healthcare and a nationally-recognized health policy expert. "We're flattered and grateful for the recognition."
Why are more and more national leaders looking at Intermountain as a role-model health system?
"Much of the rest of the country tends to focus on the volumes of healthcare services they provide, because that's what the system rewards, rather than the care that's necessary to help the patient," says Greg.
"The utilization of many different services across the country is highly variable and often higher than it needs to be. In Intermountain Healthcare and in Utah, we're focused on evidence-based medicine, and we're more able to provide only the services our patients need. The result is, utilization is lower here, outcomes are better, and costs are dramatically lower. A growing number of healthcare and national leaders are seeing those results, and it's very nice that the President is among them."
President Obama last week mentioned the disconnect between healthcare costs and outcomes
"We have the most expensive healthcare system in the world," he said. "We spend almost 50 percent more per person on health care than the next most costly nation. But here's the thing, Green Bay: we're not any healthier for it. We don't necessarily have better outcomes."
Per capita healthcare spending in Utah is $3,972, just a little more than Canada's $3,912 and slightly less than France's $4,056—and dramatically lower than the U.S. average of $7,026. Those figures are leading more and more national leaders to look at Intermountain Healthcare. Dennis Cortese, MD, the chief executive officer of the Mayo Clinic, told a congressional committee last year: "Perhaps it's time to stop talking about the French model, or the Canadian model, and start talking about the Utah model."
More and more national leaders see us as a role model
"The bottom line is, a growing number of national leaders are looking at Intermountain Healthcare as a role model that can help the U.S. improve healthcare quality and control costs," says Greg. "It's wonderful that one of them is the president of the United States—and it's nice to see more and more news organizations report on that trend. Industry leaders have always recognized our success in delivering the best possible care for the lowest possible cost, and it's great to see Washington and the media come on board, too."
National media echo Obama's opinion
The president's comments about Intermountain Healthcare have been supplemented by recent reports in a number of prominent national media outlets that say Intermountain Healthcare is a role-model system that should be considered as national leaders work on healthcare reform.
- TIME MAGAZINE said on June 5: "If there is an ideal out there…it can be seen in the kind of medicine already being practiced by Kaiser Permanente, the Mayo Clinic, Intermountain Healthcare, and Geisinger Health System, which manage to hold down costs and get better results. Their operations have fostered closer teamwork among care providers." The complete article is at: The Five Big Health-Care Dilemmas.
- THE WASHINGTON POST said on June 6: "First, we need to design a healthcare system that delivers better-integrated, coordinated care. There are organizations—usually large, multi-specialty group practices—that produce high-quality, comprehensive care at a total per-person cost (premium and out-of-pocket) that is considerably less than the cost of independent practice. Research at Dartmouth Medical School published last year found that if all doctors practiced to the standard of Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Medicare would cost 40 percent less." The complete article is at: Using Value to Curb Health Costs.
- An article by former U.S. SENATOR TOM DASCHLE in ROLL CALL Special Reports (June 8 issue), a Washington D.C. political newspaper, said: "Every country begins at the base of the pyramid and works its way up until the money runs out. However, in the U.S., we start at the top of the pyramid and work our way down until the money runs out. This is our fundamental problem. We have an inverted pyramid that costs over 40 percent more than the second-most-expensive country. At the same time, quality declines because we ignore the most basic, least expensive form of healthcare delivery. As a result of the extraordinary spectrum of quality and quantity found in this country, we have islands of excellence (Mayo Clinic and Intermountain Healthcare) in a sea of mediocrity." The complete article is at: Daschle: Comprehensive Health Care Reform Is Long Overdue in U.S.
- THE COMMITTEE FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, a public policy group of business and academic leaders that researches major economic and social issues, issued a statement on June 9 that included the following: "Our best healthcare insurers and providers, such as Mayo, Kaiser, and Intermountain, must be allowed to bring their innovations in cost reduction and quality improvement to all parts of the country. That would solve our healthcare problems by saving enough money to pay for universal coverage." The complete article is at: CED Endorses the Healthy Americans Act.
- THE NEW YORKER ran an article on June 1 by Atul Gawande, MD, about how costlier healthcare doesn't necessary equal better healthcare. In offering solutions to this dilemma, Dr. Gawande talks about trend-setting physicians and hospitals that adopt measures to avoid harmful financial incentives and take responsibility for improving the sum total of patient care. He says: "This approach has been adopted in other places, too: the Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania; the Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield, Wisconsin; Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City; Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. All of them function on similar principles. All are not-for-profit institutions. And all have produced enviably higher quality and lower costs than the average American town enjoys." You can read the complete article at: The Cost Conundrum.
President—and national media—praise Intermountain Healthcare as a role model U.S. health reformers should follow.