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Obama singles out Intermountain Healthcare as model system



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SALT LAKE CITY -- President Barack Obama singled out the western United States' biggest health care provider as a possible national model in his big health care speech Wednesday night.

Intermountain Healthcare has earned a reputation for providing low-cost, high-quality medical care. Members of the Obama administration have been studying the company, looking to learn from what it does well.

The President spotlighted Intermountain for adopting common-sense best practices, which are more efficient and cut costs.


Did you know... Utah's per capita spending on health care ($3,972) is 44% less than the national average ($7,026). -Kaiser Family Foundation

"We have long known that some places, like the Intermountain Healthcare in Utah or the Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania, offer high-quality care at cost below average," Obama said.

Intermountain is the largest health care provider in the western region. Utah is the No. 1 state when it comes to health care costs per capita; total health care spending per capita is $3,000 less than the national average.

"I think that in Utah, that the providers here often do the right thing in spite of the fact that it's not what is financially rewarded. And around the country, that's less true than it is here," said Greg Poulsen, senior vice president of Intermountain Healthcare.

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Intermountain Healthcare is the largest healthcare provider in the Intermountain West. It is a nonprofit system that serves the medical needs of Utah and southeastern Idaho. It is based in Salt Lake City with more than 30,000 employees. It was established in 1975 when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated its 15-hospital system to the communities they served and asked Intermountain to administer those hospitals. It consists of 21 hospitals and more than 150 clinics, physician offices, and other service sites in Utah and southeastern Idaho.
As an example, Poulsen cites a change Intermountain made when it came to inducing births. A national study found babies induced before 39 weeks fared less well, many needing intensive care--a much more expensive option. "If a woman is induced at 39 weeks, that's the optimal time. If you go to 38 weeks, the likelihood of the baby being in the Newborn ICU doubles. If you go to 37 weeks, it doubles again," Poulsen explained.

Intermountain doctors found limiting induced births before 39 weeks meant fewer complications for mother and child, shorter labor times--typically one and a half hours less--and cost savings of $500,000 a year.

"So, You get a great out come if you can reduce the number of premature inductions," Poulsen said. "You have fewer babies in the ICU. That's great for the parents' piece of mind, and it saves a lot of money--millions of dollars."

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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John Daley

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