By Doug Lawson, PhD, CEO of St. Luke’s Health
In healthcare, we are often good at highlighting awards, achievements, and patient stories. However, we could do a much better job of explaining the business of healthcare and how it relates to delivering quality care to our communities. That’s why I suggest it's worthwhile to invest some of your time in reading two recent Houston Chronicle articles featuring St. Luke’s Health.
The first article, “Competition not a cure” from the front page of the September 23 edition, spotlights how St. Luke’s is the high-value provider for the communities we serve. That phrase – high-value – represents the intersection of high quality care at a low cost.
As reporter Rebecca Carballo explains, hospitals make a large share of their revenues from reimbursements paid by commercial insurers. Despite providing nationally-recognized quality care, St. Luke’s is reimbursed at much lower rates compared to other major Houston hospital systems.
These unsustainable insurance reimbursements, combined with inflation and rising costs, are having a significant negative impact on the financial performance of St. Luke’s. It’s a challenge that’s also facing other hospitals across the country. We need fair and reasonable reimbursements from insurance companies to continue investing in the quality of care we provide our community and the caregivers who deliver it. We are not looking to be the highest paid provider in the area but we cannot afford to be paid the least by insurers.
People deserve to know about the costs of various procedures at specific hospitals and that’s the crux of the second article, “Which Houston hospitals are most expensive” from the front page of the October 19 edition. Reporter Julian Gill compares prices at major Houston hospital systems and St. Luke’s charges the least on average across the board.
This information empowers consumers to know where to receive the lowest cost, highest quality healthcare by highlighting how hospitals are complying with federal mandates to publish the costs of specific medical procedures
This is also critical information for employers. As Dr. Vivian Ho, a healthcare economist at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy points out in the article, most large companies in the Houston area are self-insured; if they can lower the overall cost of medical care for their employees, lower health insurance premiums could result.
Together, these two articles use facts and data to illustrate the connection between quality of care and the business of healthcare. The bottom line is that patients who choose St. Luke’s receive high quality care at the lowest cost and it benefits their employers, too.
I know that all of us at St. Luke’s Health will continue to give our all so that every patient who enters our system receives the high-value care they deserve and have come to expect.