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August 01, 2023


It may be summer, but for many of us it is the start of a new year, fiscally speaking. A tremendous amount of planning has already taken place for FY2024 budgets, and now the task begins of carefully stewarding those resources over the coming months.

For some of you, that entails managing your budgets, and for others, it may mean managing your clients. At the end of the day, all of us want to know we are delivering or expanding access to high-quality health care services. If you’re interested in learning more about any of the initiatives below, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. 

Expanding Responsibilities 

In addition to the start of our new FY, this summer also marks the start of a new dimension for CommonSpirit Health. A few weeks ago, CommonSpirit announced we would be consolidating our operating divisions from seven to five, effective July 1. I am pleased at the opportunity to lead the newly consolidated Texas/Southeast Division. So, in addition to my responsibility in Texas for 20,000-plus employees, providers, caregivers, medical staff and volunteers in an integrated health network of 16 acute care hospitals at St. Luke’s Health, I will now have responsibility for CommonSpirit’s hospital systems in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

I have spent a great deal of my focus and career immersed in the Texas health care markets, and that will not change. I intend to continue the good work we started in Texas and build on the strong teams and good work in the southeast division to advance growth imperatives and operating efficiencies to better position our ministry for success.

Agreement Reached with Cigna LifeSOURCE

We have officially completed all of our negotiations with Cigna. As of July 1, St. Luke’s Health, including Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, is back in-network with Cigna LifeSOURCE  — Cigna’s transplant network. Our academic affiliate, Baylor College of Medicine, is also back in-network with Cigna LifeSOURCE. We have communicated with all patients, physicians, and employers and encourage you to pass on the news. For a full list of in-network insurers with St. Luke’s Health, please click here.


“A” Report Card

Earlier this spring, three of our hospitals earned the coveted Leapfrog “A” Hospital Safety Grade. St. Luke’s Health- The Woodlands Hospital, Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and St. Luke’s Health-Sugar Land Hospital were recipients of the top grade. Meanwhile, our Sugar Land hospital also was recognized as a Best Hospital for Maternity Care and St. Luke’s Health-Patients Medical Center was named a Best Hospital for Patient Safety, Bariatric Surgery, and Emergency Care.


Eyes on Medicaid

St. Luke’s Health has been closely monitoring public discussion around Medicaid. Recently proposed changes to federal health care rules for Medicaid could mean the end of pooling those funds. This practice ultimately works to bolster care received by people who use Medicaid. Additionally, the continuous enrollment period for Medicaid ended on March 31 this year, requiring all recipients to complete a renewal process to apply for continued coverage. Ultimately, properly shepherding this program has a positive economic impact on employers in our state. We take our role in ensuring that Medicaid recipients receive high-quality care seriously.


Rural Emergency Hospital Designation

Recently, St. Luke’s Health - Memorial Hospital in San Augustine converted to a Rural Emergency Hospital (REH). The facility will continue to provide essential services to the community, including emergency, outpatient, radiology, and laboratory care. If a patient requires an inpatient admission, St. Luke's Health will appropriately coordinate the transfer for that level of care. Several members of our San Augustine team recently spoke with Marketplace reporter Elizabeth Trovall to explain the transition and why it makes sense for the community and St. Luke’s Health.

Expanded Cancer Center Offers Advanced Care in Healing Atmosphere

The O’Quinn Medical Tower is the newest facility on the McNair Campus of Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. It is home to the newly expanded Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, which features a calm and healing environment where caregivers treat patients with the latest technology. Take a quick tour of this magnificent facility to see all it has to offer as well as learn more about the high-quality care available here.


The Art of “daVinci”

Dr. Alan Bassin, MD, recently celebrated a career-high of 2,000 robotic surgical procedures. To perform the surgery, he uses the daVinci high-definition Robotic Surgical System. Bassin is an accredited Master Surgeon recognized by the SRC, an internationally accredited patient safety organization, for practicing the Gold Standard of surgical care at St. Luke’s Health-Memorial Lufkin.


Houston’s First Transcatheter Valve Replacement Rejuvenates Octogenarian

Senior patient Dorothy Semon, 81, was not a candidate for open heart surgery due to her age but Interventional Cardiologist Neil E. Strickman, MD, FACC, FSCAI, FACP, had a solution. He recommended a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) using a new valve coated with “Resilia,” a product that has been proven to retard calcification of the valve as well as decrease degeneration of this bioprosthetic heart valve. Dorothy is the first patient in Houston and CommonSpirit Health to receive the new technology. And it was implanted into Dorothy’s heart during a one-hour procedure, after which Dorothy was well on the way to resuming her normal activities.

Standout Caregiver Exemplifies St. Lukes Health High-Quality Nursing Care

Recognized as a healthcare hero, Omorowa Obanor, RN, DPN, makes a difference with each patient she sees. This nurse researcher has studied surgical site infection rates in order to learn how best to instruct patients to care for their incisions. When a patient needs extra TLC she is known to go the extra mile and sing to them as a way to include music in her passion for holistic healing. St. Luke’s is dedicated to retaining the best in nursing, and we are focused on reducing burnout through shared decision-making, flexible scheduling and new care models. Watch (and hear) Omorowa O. as talks about her dedication to her profession.


Listening to Our Voices

St. Luke’s Health recently released an insightful new video series called Listening to Our Voices. The series captures the unique voices of our staff and employees as we hear their candid stories of navigating both personal and professional spaces — and how those experiences impact them, their work and their respective views of the world. Their stories are unscripted, relatable and honest. Our sincere hope is that each voice speaks to someone, reminding us that we indeed share a common spirit.

Critical Solutions for Childbirth Complications In Black Mothers

The rate of women in Harris County who die from complications of childbirth is among the highest in the nation, and the rate is nearly double for Black mothers. Episode 8 of ExamiNATION, our docuseries exploring Houston’s journey toward health equity, examines the causes and highlights how quality healthcare from St. Luke's Health and focused efforts from organizations like the Houston Health Department and Texas A&M Health Science Center are addressing this unacceptable health disparity.


Hearing from You

While inflation is trending down, there are still significant challenges to the healthcare environment. Employers, health care providers and brokers all deal with these issues on a daily basis. In order to foster an ongoing dialogue between St. Luke’s Health and regional brokers, we have started a Brokers Advisory Council, which meets every few months. These conversations have been informative to this point, and I am appreciative of the participation of our council members. If you’d like to hear more about this group, please send me an email.  


I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!

Dr. Douglas Lawson

CEO, CommonSpirit Health Texas and Southeast Divisions 

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