In October 1999 IHC announced plans to discontinue any management contract with Star Valley Hospital.
Forced to choose between losing health care services in Star Valley or branching out on their own, the North Lincoln County Hospital District Board of Trustees made the decision to move forward with improved medical services at the local level.
The result of that action was the creation of Star Valley Medical Center.
“As a reporter, I lived through the years of covering hospital board meetings where each session centered on finding enough money to keep our little hospital open,” said Senator Dan Dockstader. “It wasn’t easy to find people interested in serving on the board in those early days, the late 80s and throughout the 90s, because of the financial challenges with rural health care.”
“Then to add to the problem, I recall the day when I heard about IHC’s sudden pullout with the management of the hospital,” Dockstader continued. “I tracked down the North Lincoln Hospital District Board of Directors for information. I found them in an emergency meeting and told the group it wasn’t just about the board, but at a time like this it was about everyone helping our valley’s hospital find a solution.”
“I commend the board at the time for not backing down in the face of adversity and uncertain times,” Dockstader added. “People like Mark Taylor, Mike Hunsaker and others rolled up their sleeves and accomplished what needed to be done — find a new CEO and move forward with a new facility that would attract general practice physicians, orthopedic surgeons and general surgeons to Star Valley.”
“It worked! We have rural health care that is the envy of the state,” Dockstader said. “From governors to U.S. Senators, every government official I bring to Star Valley gets a tour of our hospital. It’s an example of what innovative people can do, when they come together to seek solution.”
Now, 20 years later, the local hospital is changing its name to Star Valley Health.
According to CEO Bren Lowe, the new name more accurately reflects the expended role the hospital plays in the community today.
“We are more than a medical center,” he said. “Less than 30 percent of what we do comes from inpatient care. That means that over 70 percent of what we do is outpatient services and care.”
“I think the name change also reflects that people in the community come to us so that we can help them to stay well,” Lowe added. “They are not just coming to see us because they are sick.”
The new name is also indicative that health care is becoming more and more personalized and individuals are taking a more active role in their own health, Lowe said.
“We want to encourage people to be active participants and partners with us in their health care,” said Lowe.
According to Lowe, more and more health care is focusing on preventative measures.
“That is where health care reimbursement is going,” Lowe explained. “As a hospital or health care service provider you are paid to keep people healthy. It is accountable care rather than crisis management. People are looking for ways to prevent small issues from progressing into health problems. Preventative care has proven to be less expensive and have better long term results.”
According to Lowe, to date Star Valley’s hospital is the only hospital in the state to move forward with accountable care.
“We believe in that focus and in that model,” Lowe said. “It is certainly what is best for patients and research supports that.”
Over the next six months the local hospital will change its logo and signage. Changes will also be made to reflect the new focus of Star Valley Health.
“I think it is important that we listen to the people that we serve as we move forward,” Lowe said. “We realize that we are only successful if the community supports us and if we can provide what the community wants.”
In the last several years the community has asked for more access and easier access to health care professionals.
The local hospital responded by adding physicians and building additional facilities to meet the increasing demands for health services.
“People asked for more specialty care,” Lowe said. “We have been able to do that and we continue to do that. We can’t provide everything, but we can continue to compliment what we do have and add services where it makes sense to add services. We want to provide the best level of care that we can as close to home as possible, whether that is family care, surgical care or urgent care. Health care and services should be local.”
Another area the community has expressed interest in is making care more affordable, Lowe said.
“We have transparent pricing and estimates, we have no interest payment plans and use of our financial assistance programs has more than doubled,” Lowe explained. “We are working to get partners in place so that we can get economies of scale that we can’t otherwise have. We are seeking those partnerships in an effort to bring costs down.”
As the local hospital makes the transition into Star Valley Health, it will remain true to the rich tradition of quality health care, Lowe said.
“Our past success and our future success has been and will be because we have stayed true to our roots,” Lowe said. “We are excited about the future and the changes that are taking place.”
For a detailed time line of medical history in Star Valley see the May 8 edition of the Star Valley Independent.