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A look into the mind of Steward’s leader

February 27, 2012

The merger application hasn’t been approved, but there’s a good chance Steward Health Care System will be the next owner of Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket. That’s why I was interested in what Dr. Ralph de la Torre,  Steward’s chairman and CEO, had to say in this editorial in Bloomberg Business Week.  De la Torre speaks specifically about what Steward has done to try to cut costs and improve efficiencies-

We serve more than 1 million patients, most of whom receive care in the communities where they live or work. We’re now in the process of linking all our facilities to let patients, nurses, primary care doctors, and specialists see exactly the same information when they call up electronic medical records. This helps us coordinate patient care, eliminate redundant tests, and reduce errors—all of which lower costs.

In addition to electronic medical records, de La Torre says Steward has created its own version of evidence based medicine, agreeing on which procedures are worth the money and which offer nothing but higher costs.

…we have succeeded in developing a variety of guidelines built on consensus among experts in our network. We’ve come a long way in slashing duplicative testing. In some cases, we have shown patients evidence that expensive new drugs or surgeries they think they want will not lead to the outcomes they desire.

Dr. Ralph de la Torre also voices his support for reducing costs through something he calls “right siting.”

If a patient seeking specialized attention at an expensive academic research center can be treated just as effectively at a hospital near his or her home or office, why send that patient to a premium center? If treatment is available at the doctor’s office, this may be even safer, cheaper, and more efficient. And if care can be delivered at the patient’s home, even better. Each step down to the next rung I have just described yields cost savings of about 20 percent.

If the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Attorney General’s office approve Steward’s merger application, Landmark will get plugged into de la Torre’s system. How do you feel about his vision?

Want to know more about de la Torre? Read this profile from the Boston Globe.

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