Health Care

Via Christi focuses on transformation

Having gotten out of the insurance business, Via Christi Health is focusing on transforming health care delivery to meet the demands of tomorrow, says Kevin Conlin, president and CEO.

In an interview, Conlin talked about the decision to sell Preferred Health Systems and Via Christi's plans going forward. The sale of PHS, a Via Christi subsidiary, to Coventry Health Care was finalized in February.

Conlin said the decision to sell was 15 months in the making. "How difficult was it? Very," he said.

Via Christi had long had an integrated system of health care, encompassing not only hospitals and insurance but also home health, senior living and other components. "To think about taking a significant portion of that... and removing it from the mix" required much deliberation.

But "the provision of health insurance was not a core part of who we are," he said. "The provision of care and services is."

Via Christi's efforts to transform health care, in Wichita and throughout its system, are focused in three areas this year:

* The opening of a new hospital in far west Wichita in August, a project that is on time and a bit under budget, Conlin said.

* Investment in innovative technology, at the new hospital and elsewhere.

* A renewed sense of competitiveness, stemming from the opening up of the health insurance market.

"The low-hanging fruit is gone with regard to expense management," Conlin said, and the new hospital will be used to try other approaches to transforming care that could be adopted in other Via Christi properties.

People who live around the hospital will be encouraged to preregister their information, so time can be saved if they need emergency room care. "That may sound like a simple thing to do," Conlin said, but it can eliminate staff time spent collecting information.

The new hospital will employ new technology, such as Via Christi's ePharmacy system to monitor medication orders from a remote location and smartphone technology for nurses.

Via Christi also has invested in new technology for its InMyHome service for older adults, to remotely monitor everything from their medication compliance to bathwater temperature.

"We have several other projects that we're working on" that are "transformational in nature," Conlin said.

The opening of the insurance market in Wichita will increase competitiveness in "quality of care, convenience of care, cost of care and the patient experience," Conlin said — all areas that he noted the Wichita Business Coalition on Health Care already is focusing on.

The coalition has released one data brief looking at hospital comparative information and plans more, to help employers make decisions about health benefits.

"We're supportive of the idea" of making the information available, Conlin said, adding that the information will help patients and employers make better decisions.