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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn., Feb. 14, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Ballad Health today announced operational results from its first six months of the fiscal year, and quarterly results for the 2nd quarter. The announcement coincides with the announcement by Moody’s Investor Services that Ballad Health’s outlook has been revised from Neutral to POSITIVE.
“Ballad Health’s operational performance is exceptional because of the incredible work of our team members and affiliated physicians,” said Alan Levine, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Ballad Health. “I am proud of the focus on quality, and I believe our results demonstrate that better quality reduces cost, improves outcomes and generates positive financial performance for our community’s health system.”
“Serving the people of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia is both our privilege and our great responsibility. The board of Ballad Health stands firmly behind the efforts of our leadership to ensure qualitative, financial, and operational success for our region’s healthcare system,” said David Lester, a member of the board of directors and lead independent director. “Our board and management team remain focused on implementing the vision of the merger. While this task is not always easy, as board members we want the best for our region, and we are pleased with the results so far.”
Quality improvement results
Driven by clinical leadership and the contributions of physicians and team members across the system, Ballad Health has seen significant improvements in objective quality measures since the merger just one year ago. In the first six months of the year, 14 of the 17 Target Quality Measures and 8 of the 13 Priority Measures identified in the Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) regulating Ballad Health improved from the baseline period – in some cases dramatically. These measures are nationally benchmarked for improvement in all U.S. acute care hospitals. While quality measures can vary from month to month, and Ballad Health cautions about the use of data at any particular time, positive trends are emerging. Examples include:
“While we certainly don’t draw conclusions about any one data point when it comes to measurement of quality, we are extremely pleased with the emerging trends,” said Levine. “While the results may vary month to month, over time we are seeing improvement. Behind these improvements in quality are patients who are safer and better off because of what our team is doing.”
Ballad Health’s Clinical Council, a system-wide physician-led effort to help the health system excel in improved quality, reduced cost and increased physician engagement, has taken active participation in driving Ballad Health to become a top-decile, zero harm health system. Chaired by Dr. Amit Vashist, in partnership with Ballad Health Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Jerry Blackwell, the Clinical Council has already led Ballad Health to recognition for its efforts in value-based services. Ballad Health was selected by the High Value-Care Collaborative to participate with leading health systems to adopt strategies that will reduce unnecessary cost and deliver evidence-based care. The High Value-Care Collaborative is a joint project between the American Hospital Association, the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation’s Choosing Wisely Campaign and the Costs of Care organization.
“Our priorities are clear,” said Blackwell. “Ballad Health is committed to being a reliably high quality healthcare system, and our physician community stands in strong support of leadership’s effort to transform our organization to becoming one of America’s leading health systems. This is a place doctors want to practice, and it’s a place patients will be able to count on consistently high quality.”
Ballad Health has remained active in the recruitment of new physicians and mid-level providers throughout the region, signing contracts for 51 full-time equivalent new doctors and mid-levels. Early successes include the recruitment of cardiology in rural Wytheville, Virginia, and Norton, Virginia; nephrology in Abingdon, Virginia; and neurology, orthopedics, pain management, hospitalists, psychiatry, and other needed specialties throughout the region.
“We know that in order to fulfill the vision of Ballad Health to be an effective health improvement organization for our region – we must be strong stewards of our resources, especially given the headwinds providers are facing,” said Levine. “We are pleased by the strong financial performance improvements over the past two quarters and will strive to continue to improve.”
Quarterly highlights include:
Six-month highlights include:
Ballad Health’s improved financial performance in the second quarter and year-to-date follows dedicated expense management, improvements in productivity, reduced reliance on temporary (contract) labor and focused supply cost management.
Ballad Health’s investment into the region’s labor force continues to be powerful, with Ballad Health spending more than $500 million on salaries, wages and benefits in the six month year-to-date period. Ballad Health projects it will spend more than $1 billion on the region’s labor force in the fiscal year.
These improvements are despite challenges both reflective of what all providers are facing and also some that are unique to Ballad Health and the region. These include:
“Ballad Health is facing a rapidly changing landscape where our financial success is no longer judged solely by volume, but increasingly, how we care for fewer people more efficiently, effectively and with better outcomes,” said Levine. “Many of the quality metrics that we’ve seen improve have led to lower costs. Shorter length of stay, reduced rates of hospital acquired conditions, reduced readmissions and better integration with physicians has helped reduce the cost of care and has helped Ballad Health achieve success with the new value-based purchasing environment.”
Levine pointed to a 10 percent reduction in the hospital readmission rate over the prior year, and a 25 percent reduction among legacy hospitals since 2015 as evidence that physician and administrative partnership is resulting in lower cost and lower risk to patients. He also highlighted a recent announcement by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which said that Ballad Health is one of only 21 Accountable Care Organizations in the nation that achieved savings for the federal government in each of the first five years of the program.
Reinvestment of capital throughout the region
While Ballad Health was focused on improved financial performance, it also has continued to invest nearly $60 million in capital for new equipment, diagnostic technology, information technology and building improvements. Just a few examples of capital spending in the year so far include:
About Ballad Health:
Ballad Health is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving 29 counties of Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Northwestern North Carolina and Southeastern Kentucky. Ballad Health was created in 2018 to improve the health of people in these regions. Ballad Health operates a family of 21 hospitals in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, including three tertiary medical centers, a dedicated children’s hospital, several community hospitals, three critical access hospitals, a behavioral health hospital, an addiction treatment facility, long-term care facilities, home care and hospice services, retail pharmacies, outpatient services and a comprehensive medical management corporation. Learn more about Ballad Health at www.BalladHealth.org.