Sept. 30, 2016
The World Health Organization defines integrated health care as, “the organization and management of health services so that people get the care they need, when they need it, in ways that are user-friendly, achieve the desired results and provide value for the money.”
That definition is becoming reality before our eyes, with Marshfield Clinic Health System pursuing our “Caring for the Chippewa Valley” plan to build a new hospital with attached cancer care on our Eau Claire campus.
Recent Leader-Telegram articles have discussed the question of whether the Chippewa Valley really needs more hospital beds. Caring for the Chippewa Valley, however, makes an important distinction. Our plan addresses not a shortage of health care, but a shortage of affordable health care in a community that — according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association — suffers from some of the state’s highest health care costs.
There are many reasons to be excited about a new, state-of-the-art hospital staffed by the world-class Marshfield Clinic physicians and medical team that have served this community for nearly 25 years. A modern hospital will bring the latest technology and high levels of care to area patients. It will create good jobs and a positive local economic boost.
What’s most exciting for families, seniors and other Chippewa Valley residents is that building a new hospital will create a local system of integrated health care with a real ability to control patient costs. Health care is a three-piece puzzle. For many years, MCHS has overseen two of the three essential puzzle pieces — outpatient care through our world-class physicians and medical staff, and insurance through our Security Health Plan product. A new Eau Claire hospital gives MCHS oversight of the third puzzle piece, hospital care, allowing for maximum efficiency and coordination that saves patients money.
Readers need only look about an hour north to Rice Lake, where MCHS has owned and operated the 40-bed Lakeview Medical Center since 2008, to see the affordability benefits of integrated care in action. Calendar year 2015 figures from the WHA show that in a comparison of patient costs for the nine most common hospital procedures, Lakeview Medical Center and its system of integrated care was more affordable than Sacred Heart, which is not part of an integrated system, in every instance.
According to the 2015 WHA numbers, a patient undergoing hip replacement at Lakeview Medical Center incurred $35,107 in hospital costs; the same procedure at Sacred Heart cost $48,195, or 37 percent more. Knee replacement cost $33,245 at Lakeview Medical; at Sacred Heart, it was $48,032, 44 percent higher.
WHA’s comparison also showed that hospital costs for delivering a baby and caring for the newborn ranged from 42 to 76 percent higher at Sacred Heart compared to the integrated system at Lakeview Medical. To be treated for a blood infection or septicemia at Sacred Heart was 81 percent more expensive than the same treatment at Lakeview Medical. And hospital costs for three serious conditions — heart abnormal rhythm and conduction disorders, pneumonia and heart failure — were 100 to 108 percent higher at Sacred Heart.
Readers can check this for themselves by going to the WHA Information Center website at wipricepoint.org.
Besides being a doctor, I’m also a business person. I know markets vary, and we might not see exactly the same cost numbers here as in Rice Lake. But MCHS offers strong potential to bring more affordable health care to the Chippewa Valley — and solid precedent to believe it can be done.
Marshfield Clinic has had a positive, long-term relationship with HSHS and Sacred Heart Hospital. Sacred Heart is a respected institution that does many good things and plays an important community role. We share a strong commitment to caring for the people of the Chippewa Valley. At MCHS, our view is that establishing a local system of integrated care is the best way for us to continue doing that. It’s our vision for the future, a plan to get local residents the care they need, when they need it, in ways that are user-friendly, achieve the desired results and provide value for the money.
Turney is CEO of Marshfield Clinic Health System.