HealthView column: The value of local health care
For the Roaring Fork Valley to enjoy optimal health — as individuals and as a community — we must have the benefit of high-quality, local, health care services that are effectively coordinated. Rural health care organizations face a growing number of challenges.
Now more than ever there is a focus on how we can provide even more value in the care we deliver. Solutions are not easy. Improvement will not happen by sweeping reform, but rather by community-driven change. Valley View and other health care facilities across the valley are creating unique solutions to keep care local, affordable and valuable.
Partnering to Share Costs and Resources
The Valley Health Alliance was created to improve the health of the Roaring Fork Valley by leveraging our collective size and scale to reduce health care costs. Made up of the six largest self-insured employers in the Roaring Fork Valley — Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen Valley Hospital, city of Aspen, Pitkin County, Mountain Family Health Centers and Valley View — the Alliance includes almost 4,000 workers with over 2,000 dependents.
Those dependents are the teachers, first responders, and small business owners of the Valley. The Alliance as a whole is looking at cost-savings opportunities for its members and Valley View is now at the point of being able to share utilization data with healthcare brokers for members of the Alliance.
Valley View and Aspen Valley Hospital (AVH) have also been working together to share physician services. For example, reconstructive plastic surgeon Jennifer Butterfield, MD, of Mount Sopris Plastic Surgery Center, and surgeon Elizabeth Brew, MD, of Surgical Specialists of Colorado (who provide services out of AVH), collaborate on breast surgery and reconstructive options for breast cancer patients.
Doug Rovira, MD, of the Calaway•Young Cancer Center, also provides medical oncology and hematology care to patients upvalley. This arrangement allows for community members to receive care at home and makes care less expensive for both organizations. This allows both of us to deliver services in a more economical way to our respective communities.
Increasing Access to Specialty Services
There’s an impression that you can get better technology services on the Front Range. This is not the case. Valley View has invested in technology such as 3D Mammography, Mako and Exactech for joint replacement, and DaVinci Xi for general surgery and our state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization labs.
Technology has allowed us to bring top professionals to the community, but it’s also extremely expensive, and we have a smaller market compared to the Front Range. To bring these types of services to the community, philanthropy becomes more and more important to us as a small health care provider.
The truth is, the cost of health care is always going to be somewhat lower in Denver than in the valley, purely due to scale. Valley View specifically cut costs by renegotiating supplier contracts and putting those cost savings back into the community. We’ve lowered our prices for outpatient surgeries and imaging to help keep health care dollars local.
If we can continue to decrease the price difference between here and the Front Range, we can keep health care local on the Western Slope. We need our local businesses and schools to be able to thrive, and we know their health care costs are a big part of that.
Whether it’s working with local brokers or on new products, or working with a national health insurance network, we’re continuing to look for opportunities to keep the cost of care down.
When our patients keep their health care dollars local, the whole community benefits.
Charles Crevling is chief financial officer for Valley View Hospital.
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