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St. Peter’s making good on promise to improve care, billing system

Posted at 4:15 PM, Aug 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-02 18:17:10-04

HELENA – Over the last year St. Peter’s Health has been overhauling its operations, working to address a myriad of patient complaints ranging from long wait times to issues with billing.

The first outward signs of change at the health system began in January when the name switched from St. Peter’s Hospital to St. Peter’s Health, which leaders said better reflected all the operations of the organization.

However, change was brewing as far back as July when new leadership took over, including current CEO Wade Johnson.

The changes are part of a an effort by St. Peter’s to become the “gold standard” for healthcare in Montana by 2025. At the time of Johnson’s arrival, the health system was dealing with a number of problems.

“There were some concerns particularly around access to care… being able to see your family practice physician or being able to get access to a specialist,” Johnson said. “And then of course the billing.”

Johnson said that mission to improve service and care can be broken down largely into a couple components – one of them is listening to the community.

“The big piece of the middle of becoming the gold standard is really developing a level of partnership internally and externally that allows us to achieve our goals,” Johnson said.

In April, Johnson hosted a meeting with the public and employees to update them and listen to feedback.

The second component of the overhaul is more difficult, requiring operational changes to actually improve the services provided so patients aren’t sitting for hours in a waiting room, not getting a bill or getting a bill only to find it’s inaccurate.

On that front, there has been progress. According to St. Peter’s, patients and insurance companies now receive bills within 15 days – 10 days faster than at the beginning of the year. The goal is to get that number down to 11.

Hold times at call centers are down by 60 percent to around 1 minute, and the vast majority of issues – 90 percent – are resolved on the first phone call. Sanctification with those calls is also up, with 95 percent of patients reporting a satisfying or very satisfying experience.

There’s also 15 new doctors at the hospital, closer to 20 when including advanced practice providers. The health system made a commitment to hire 30 new providers over three years.The health system is also on a four year journey to achieve ISO accreditation through the independent group DNV, a prestigious designation that would verify the hospital’s efforts at quality assurance are working.

Urgent care hours of operation were also extended at the North Clinic and Regional Medical Center, providing a combined 13 hours of access. The North Clinic now opens at 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. and the Regional Medical Center opens at 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.

“Our community now has better access to care than they did a year ago,” Johnson said.