evolution into an integrated system was completed in phases. When the organization was founded in 1975, it was comprised of 15 hospitals. By 1985, it was a multi-hospital system that granted its hospitals such a degree of autonomy that these facilities competed with each other. SelectHealth (then IHC Health Plans) had recently been created, but it existed as a satellite and interacted little with other parts of Intermountain. Nearly all the physicians who practiced at Intermountain were independent.
The first phase of integration (1985-1992) began with the hospitals, which were reorganized by regions. Hospital Governing Boards followed suit. Management was consolidated and took on regional responsibilities. Intermountain hospitals began to cooperate instead of compete with each other.
The second phase of integration (1992-present) was system integration. By the mid-1990s, Intermountain had all the pieces in place to make vertical integration work: hospitals, the Intermountain Medical Group of employed physicians, and SelectHealth.
Benefits of integration:
- Clinical quality
Excellent clinical care is at the heart of Intermountain's mission. Through clinical programs that improve the treatment of certain chronic diseases, all three Intermountain divisions—Health Services, SelectHealth, and the Intermountain Medical Group—contribute in essential ways to sharing best medical practices and raising the standards of clinical excellence. By studying clinical data and utilizing the expertise of a system of specialists, Intermountain develops and delivers care practices that deliver the best results.
For example, in treating diabetes, SelectHealth helps educate all members about the causes, dangers, and warning signs of diabetes. Members who are diagnosed with diabetes are assigned a nurse care manager who will connect them to resources and help them learn to manage their condition. If a patient requires hospitalization, the exchange between his or her Intermountain primary care physician or secondary care physician and hospital team is seamless. The entire Intermountain team, from health plan to hospital, works together to ensure the patient receives the best possible care.
- Service quality
SelectHealth offers a service called Member Advocates, where members can call for help finding a doctor to meet their needs and scheduling appointments. Intermountain Healthcare medical staff and SelectHealth members also have access to medical records, claims, and benefit information through a secure website called My Health. These are just two examples of how integration provides excellent service.
- Lower costs
In a vertically integrated organization like Intermountain, costs aren't just reduced through economies of scale and efficient management. The most significant cost reductions are achieved by improving the total process of medical care. By identifying and implementing best medical practices—what works best—Intermountain not only provides quality healthcare; it often achieves lasting improvement in cost structures. And those savings help Intermountain maintain the financial strength required to provide charity care to those who are unable to pay.
Incentives and resources of doctors, hospitals, and the health plans are aligned to help people stay well. SelectHealth promotes preventive screenings and waives the deductible on many routine services.
- Scope of service
With hospitals, physician clinics, health plans, home health agencies, occupational medicine clinics, and other services, Intermountain provides a relatively seamless continuum of care.