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Baptist Health CEO seeks partnerships for health improvement

BY LAUREL BLACKlblack@paducahsun.com

Baptist Health President and CEO Stephen Hanson doesn't shy away from the fact that in terms of health status, the commonwealth is dismal. But he believes it doesn't have to be.

Hanson shared his thoughts on the hospital system's role in improving health and health care Wednesday during a visit to the Paducah Rotary Club. For the CEO, it all boils down to partnership.

As opposed to other industries, "everybody has a personal interest in health care," said Hanson, who worked since 2005 for nonprofit health system Texas Health Resources before taking his current position in January 2013.

Kentucky comes in 49th out of the 50 states in the latest Gallup/Healthway index of wellbeing, outranking only West Virginia. Among the 434 congressional districts nationwide, Kentucky's District 1, which includes the Purchase and surrounding counties, ranked 418th. In McCracken County, 24 percent of the population smokes regularly, 36 percent are obese and more than 11 percent have diabetes, according to Hanson.

Hanson described Kentucky's health care landscape as fragmented. Doctors, hospitals, public health departments, schools and organizations such as the American Cancer Society all play an important role in health care, but sometimes lack coordination and communication.

"Sometimes I'm not sure the whole is greater than the sum of its parts," he said. "What we'd like to see Baptist do is join forces with all these people, hold forums and make sure everybody is aware of what everybody else is doing."

He told Rotary members that going forward, the community will see Baptist Health in a leadership role when it comes to connecting these health care "dots."

Hanson also briefly discussed a shift in health care companies from operating in a volume-based environment to building value-based care systems. That calls for partnership - even with competitors - and an increased focus on home care, which would make for shorter hospital stays and fewer readmissions.

"It's not like we're forgetting the hospital. We're really adding to that, we're complementing that," he added.

In a meeting at The Paducah Sun, Hanson, Baptist Health Paducah President William Brown and Chief Operating Officer Bonnie Schrock highlighted some of the ways Baptist Health already partners with other providers. It offers Cooper-Clayton smoking cessation classes in collaboration with Lourdes hospital. The two also jointly own and operate Mercy Regional EMS.

They also highlighted Baptist Health Paducah's recent developments, including the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, now in its third year of operation. The unit offers six beds for infants in need of intensive care, and the hospital has filed for four more, Brown said. Until the unit opened, the closest facility was located in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Baptist Health Paducah opened in 1953 and now employs more than 1,750 people, making it second only to the marine industry among the region's top employers, Hanson said. The Baptist Health system owns seven hospitals and manages two others.

Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.

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