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WHA Board Members Highlight WI Health News Roundtable Event

October 08, 2019

Three WHA Board members assembled in Madison October 8 for a Hospital CEO Roundtable event hosted by Wisconsin Health News and sponsored by WHA. Dr. Scott Rathgaber, Gundersen Health System CEO; Damond Boatwright, SSM Health Wisconsin president; and Luke Beirl, Hayward Area Memorial Hospital CEO, discussed the most pressing issues facing their entities and shared their thoughts on what can be done to provide Wisconsin’s high-quality care to more patients at a reasonable cost.

All three panelists noted that while Wisconsin hospitals and systems – whether large or small – provide high-quality care, the actual services their entities provide makes up only about 20% of the total amount a patient spends on their health. Much more comes from the “social determinants of health,” such as diet and exercise, that are not within direct control of hospitals and health systems, but where we can be the best partners. Beirl emphasized that Hayward has “doubled-down on partnerships,” noting “we don’t control primary care in our community, but we do understand the importance of access in our rural communities and we can and must demonstrate value to keep care local.”

Dr. Rathgaber agreed on the importance of partnerships. Because social determinants of health elements aren’t generally within a health care provider’s wheelhouse, systems such as Gundersen can instead help improvement efforts by collaborating with entities focusing on these areas and “being humble enough to listen to their expertise.” He cited how Gundersen’s collaboration with almost 40 separate organizations in La Crosse has resulted in measurable improvement in addressing homelessness.

As a leader in one of the nation’s largest health systems, Boatwright pointed out that size alone does not ensure success. He cited a quote from Monroe Clinic Hospital President Michael Sanders: “Bigger isn’t better – better is better.” Boatwright also emphasized how taking advantage of local expertise can have the more direct impact on where improvements are often needed the most. One example is how SSM Health provided a grant in Madison that helped establish the Men’s Health Education Center located inside a local barbershop; in the Center’s first month more than five dozen visitors visited the Center and learned more about certain chronic health care issues and available resources to combat those problems.

WHA was the major sponsor for Tuesday’s event and has supported Wisconsin Health News since it was first established in January 2011.

This story originally appeared in the October 08, 2019 edition of WHA Newsletter