Wednesday, January 22, 2014

St. Luke’s CEO reflects on first 2 years

Langbehn says health-care system needs much more reform

Express Staff Writer

Cody Langbehn is the CEO of St. Luke’s Wood River, a post he took over about two years ago. Photo by Roland Lane

wo years into his tenure as St. Luke’s Wood River CEO, Cody Langbehn has been busy tending to the needs of both the staff and patients, along with the hospital as a business.
    “My job is everything a business owner would do in terms of operating the business, seeing what our volumes look like every day while handling a lot of staffing and team issues,” Langbehn said.
    “I have to be able to handle unexpected interruptions in the community like the August wildfire. We always have to be willing to step back and see what needs and services we have to provide for.”
    Langbehn said that since he became CEO of the hospital, he has faced several challenges. One of them has been maintaining a high level of care amid decreased insurance reimbursements.
    Due to fewer patients having commercial health insurance providers, Langbehn also said the hospital has had to deal with more deductions for the care it provides.
    “Due to an increase in Medicare and Medicaid utilization and a decrease in private insurance payers, the hospital’s reimbursement for every dollar it charges has been reduced from 75 percent to 61 percent,” Langbehn said. “This shift in payer makeup is largely attributable to a decrease in employment numbers in the Wood River Valley.”
    In spite of the difficulties the hospital faces, Langbehn said the hospital can still succeed while still providing services that are not self-sustaining.
    “Our challenge is trying to figure out ways to sustain our current business model and include things that aren’t self-sustaining, like mental-health services,” he said.
    “We’re continuing to see more people with no health insurance or self-pay, and there’s more of a Medicare population. We’re trying to figure out how to do more with less. We want to expand our services, maintain our level of quality and do more with less reimbursement.”
    He added that the health-care industry has been both “challenging” and “weird” as reimbursement numbers continue to decline.

We’re trying to do more with less.”
Cody Langbehn
CEO, St. Luke’s Wood River

    The hospital has looked at several options to save money. Langbehn said the hospital has saved $5,000 since it began charging patients and employees 50 cents for a cup of coffee, while making it free for those who bring a reusable container. Langbehn added that the hospital has also used fewer and cheaper screws for operations such as hip replacements that are just as effective as the more expensive ones.
    Langbehn said the hospital will have to continue to remain flexible to ongoing changes in the health-care industry, especially with the beginning of implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
    “There are some things in the Affordable Care Act that I agree with, and there are other things with which I disagree,” he said. “What’s important, however, is that it really spurred the discussion on health-care reform. It will need to get worse before it gets better and true fundamental change happens, which is what needs to eventually happen, because we are currently not on a sustainable path.”
    He also said one of the biggest problems in the health-care industry is that hospitals are solely concerned with how to treat people once they check in and neglect to focus on how to keep potential patients out of the hospital.
    “Right now, there’s no reward system for managing people’s health, and that will change to help health-care cost controls,” he said. “It’s going to have to get closer to a crisis point until legislators are willing to change the financial reimbursement.”
    In Langbehn’s eyes, the Affordable Care Act was a “baby step” in the right direction. However, he said, the important thing is that the legislation recognizes that change is needed.
    He predicted that the health-care industry will reach a crisis point in five to 10 years. He said he and the St. Luke’s staff are preparing to effectively address the community’s health needs once that time comes.
    “St. Luke’s wants to take care of people proactively now, not just reactively,” he said. “We have diabetes- and obesity-management programs that enable people to focus on their wellness and not just sick care.”
    Langbehn emphasized that the hospital not only cares about its patients, but also for the health of the entire Wood River Valley population.
    “We want to improve the health of the people in this region,” he said. “We need to continue to strive to provide the high level of care we’ve always done. Also, we need to start trying to be a leader in this change that’s coming to health-care reform. We don’t want to just provide care when people get sick or have an accident.”
Eric Avissar:

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