SCL Health and Intermountain Healthcare have merged to form a new organization serving patients and communities in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, Utah, Idaho, and Nevada.
The scope and scale of the merger will enhance care provided at SCL Health’s hospitals and clinics. Patients can access the same excellent providers and facilities, and use their same insurance plan with trusted caretakers.
It’s also important to note that the names and focus of SCL Health’s hospitals remain the same – to improve the health of the people and communities they serve and help them live the healthiest lives possible. The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth found creative ways to provide healthcare in Colorado, Kansas, and Montana more than a century ago. Intermountain Healthcare will continue working through strong community partnerships, evidence-based programs, and services to help people outside the hospital walls.
Intermountain Healthcare President and Chief Executive Officer Marc Harrison, MD, is confident about this united effort. “With this merger, we’ll create a model population health-oriented system that provides high-quality, affordable and accessible care to more patients," Harrison said. "The merger provides a healthcare model for the rest of the country.”
According to Dr. Harrison, the new merged organization will focus on ensuring more accessible, more affordable, and focused care while keeping people healthy rather than simply treating them when they are sick.
According to national statistics, six in 10 Americans live with at least one chronic disease, and those diseases are responsible for killing more than 1.7 million people in this country every year. Prevention is, in part, behavioral and can be addressed by individual choices. Prevention must also be facilitated by healthcare providers.
“At Intermountain Healthcare, we operate a program in some of our clinics that involves physicians directly helping patients improve their overall health — for example, primary care doctors connecting a patient to mental health services or nurse diabetic educators or arranging for home health visits,” Dr. Harrison said. “Patients in some of our Utah programs have seen a 20% improvement in controlling high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, colorectal cancer, and other health problems. Better health has, in turn, reduced costs by $648 per patient each year ($1,908 a year for patients 65 and older) compared to standard clinics.”
The COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on national disparities in healthcare, and Intermountain Healthcare leaders are committed to rapidly addressing challenges to achieve health equity. Dr. Harrison points out that the key to tackling these disparities are the five social determinants of health:
- Affordable and quality housing, access to reliable transportation, and access to nutritious, affordable food
- Access to quality healthcare, health insurance, and linguistically and culturally responsive healthcare
- Healthy occupation choices and job conditions
- Support paying medical bills and access to affordable quality housing and nutritious food
- Education, including access to high-quality education, can boost job and career options
Intermountain Healthcare has worked closely with its local community partners, and will continue to do so in Colorado and Montana, by providing funding to many nonprofit agencies. For example, Intermountain recently contributed $12 million and staffing to Nevada and Utah programs that address influential health social factors in low-income zip codes. The three-year pilot has contributed to a 12.7% reduction in emergency room (ER) visits among patients involved.
“We at Intermountain Healthcare believe that healthcare systems should be judged on how they treat the historically underserved,” said Dr. Harrison. “We hold ourselves accountable by establishing key performance indicators and continually assessing our progress. What’s clear is that we still have work to do, as does the entire healthcare industry.”
Expanding Telehealth and In-Home Services
Intermountain Healthcare believes the traditional healthcare system model needs to become more consumer-centric and meet people where they are, as much as possible, when delivering care.
Soon, rural communities served by the newly merged organization will have greater access to easily accessible telehealth services. These innovative programs provide access to more than 500 highly trained medical specialists in 35 advanced specialties. Additional treatment options and other enhancements will be added in the future. The result: many people will be able to stay home for high-level care.
Intermountain also believes hospital-level care at home should be available to treat acute and chronic clinical conditions. The economic benefits are clear. Initial national studies estimate telehealth care is 19% less expensive than conventional hospital care, and has equal or better outcomes.
Think of the SCL Health and Intermountain Healthcare merger like this: Keeping patients and their communities healthy is a team sport. The hospitals and clinics you trust are now part of a bigger team, with the same excellent care. And that’s the future of healthcare.