The environment in which healthcare organizations operate is changing. I believe it is changing for the better. With the help of Methodist Medical Center, I want to be a part of that positive change in central Illinois. Whenever I come to Peoria, visiting our organization's local facilities, our doctors, board members, employees and community leaders, I’m usually asked what I think of healthcare reform.
To many people, it is obvious that the current model of healthcare is unsustainable. The costs of Medicare are outstripping our ability to pay in the future and straining our federal budget. We have a large population of baby boomers advancing in years, and thereby, in healthcare needs. Our current system can be fragmented and difficult to navigate. A lot of the issues regarding healthcare in America make for stressful news.
So, when they ask me about reform, occasionally people are surprised by my response: I see it as an opportunity. In fact, I see it as an opportunity that has never before existed during the course of my career in healthcare, which spans more than 35 years.
Reform: An Opportunity
For decades, we have tried to address our country's system of healthcare, which costs too much and doesn't work well for many. If we don't start trying to fix it now, it will be a lost opportunity to start being better stewards of the economy and federal spending.
Now, IHS and Methodist have an opportunity to create a new way to deliver care, to ensure that our vision of delivering the best outcome for every patient, every time (a concept we affectionately refer to as "BOFEPET"), stays top of mind and drives the delivery of top-flight healthcare to our patients.
Over the last several years, we've seen the development of innovations that finally make it possible to create a system that brings down the cost of care while improving quality and improving the patients’ experience. For the first time, our vision isn’t a concept we are pursuing in spite of bureaucratic barriers—it is a value we can express every day, because for once, under the long-overdue changes to healthcare regulations, we are becoming free to create a different, new and better way to deliver care.
Today, we have the opportunity to bring patients and doctors closer together. Perhaps now we can take a good look at the total patient and environment across a broader stretch of time and promote his or her wellness throughout life.
The New Relationship, Outlined
Let me offer specifics on what the relationship of IHS to Methodist really means for patients and communities in central Illinois. The new strategic affiliation ensures that more resources will be put toward caring for patients and positions both organizations for the future. More than that, it opens a new door to the future of healthcare. We are seeking like-minded people and organizations to join in our efforts.
Methodist shares an outlook and vision with IHS—one that is keenly focused on collaborating across all areas to directly benefit the patient. When the infrastructure of IHS extended into the communities of central Illinois, the infrastructure of Methodist expanded as well. This means Methodist can now take advantage of resources and practices that were not previously available. Methodist is the perfect partner for IHS and a catalyst for new innovations in patient care that bring more value to the people we serve in our expanding region. Its mission, vision, values and culture closely align with those of IHS.
But there is more to our relationship than that. Methodist has a rich history that spans more than a century. It was the first hospital in downstate Illinois with Joint Commission Disease Specific Certification for heart attack, heart failure, stroke, pneumonia, hip and knee replacement, and sleep disorders. It was also the first hospital in downstate Illinois to be awarded Magnet designation for Excellence in Nursing Services, the nation’s highest honor in patient care. All of these things make Methodist an attractive partner, but what forged our relationship was not only past success, but future opportunities.
And there is more to our relationship than that. With the inclusion of Methodist as the eighth senior affiliate to join IHS, we are now the fifth-largest nondenominational health system in America, which gives us the opportunity and resources to lead improvements.
And there is even more to our relationship than that! The partnership also mobilizes our ability to achieve four major objectives.
- Empowering the patient-physician relationship. IHS relies on a core team of professionals to ensure we provide the greatest care for our patients. This means our physicians must lead in the mission to strengthen patient trust. Two years ago, we founded and launched the Physician Leadership Academy, a master’s degree program for our most qualified physicians to learn leadership and administration skills that will help us move from being hospital-centered to a more physician-driven organization.
- Building technological bridges to the patient. We are connecting facilities across our region in order to utilize the latest technological advances to reach out to every patient, no matter how remote from our hospitals and clinics they may be. We operate a fiber optic network that runs from Chicago to Denver and facilitates our ability to securely transfer data at lightning speed. Lowering the natural technological barriers between patient and physician is critical.
- Lowering bureaucratic barriers. Something has always challenged the ability of physicians, clinics and hospitals to achieve the best care for patients: the structure of Medicare reimbursements. Historically, Medicare not only penalized high-quality healthcare states but also reimbursed hospitals based on patient volume, not quality of care. This created a system in which the patient easily becomes an afterthought. Fortunately, that is changing under healthcare reform, and we will be moving toward value-based payments.
- Providing greater wellness for the local community. Following reform, providers are much more likely to be compensated for “best” care, rather than “most” care. Most importantly, healthcare reform allows for and encourages something which, simply put, was not rewarded under prior regulations: coordinated care. This must not be overlooked.
Planning for the Future
What do we hope to see in the next five years? A system of healthcare that is easy to navigate for the patient and their families. A simple-to-understand, wellness-centered experience for the patient that helps them stay out of our hospitals and stay in their homes. A rewarding, personal approach to the practice of medicine for our physicians. A system that invigorates our workforce and delivers appropriate care efficiently, instead of cookie-cutter, piecemeal approaches mandated in part by bureaucrats. Vibrant communities of people living at their healthiest.
The better parts of healthcare reform provide our system of hospitals and physicians with better opportunities than we faced in prior years, because the new regulations are less likely to hinder us in fulfilling our core duty to serve the patient across his or her entire spectrum of care. Together, Methodist and IHS can see these opportunities come to fruition.
Under our affiliation, Methodist retains its governance structure, which allows it to take advantage of greater system-wide resources, clinical platforms, best practices and many other opportunities. In light of shifting demands of the patient population and healthcare reform, IHS and Methodist look to develop best practices in implementing new initiatives.
For example, one of the latest care models currently being developed is the Accountable Care Organization (ACO), a new approach to organize and compensate healthcare organizations in a way that emphasizes the total wellness of patient populations while better controlling costs. An ACO program piloted by IHS at one of Methodist's sister affiliates in Fort Dodge, Iowa, is among only 32 programs in the country to participate in the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization model, a transformative new initiative sponsored by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Center.
The lessons learned and best models derived from the ACO efforts throughout IHS can then be applied locally at Methodist. It is one of the many benefits of becoming part of a larger team of affiliated hospitals and clinics. In other words, Methodist is able to draw strength from a new pool of peers, and the strengths of Methodist can be shared with other organizations throughout IHS. This mutual benefit positions both organizations to make even greater strides going forward and improve care in Peoria. iBi
Bill Leaver is president and CEO of Iowa Health System. For more information, visit ihs.org.