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September 12, 2013

Annual Gathering Encourages Community to Express Yourself

ThedaCare is actively engaging business and community leaders to be involved in its mission to improve the community’s health.

ThedaCare Leaders Inspire Everyone to Play Role to Make Area Healthier

ThedaCare is actively engaging business and community leaders to be involved in its mission to improve the community’s health.

The region’s only locally owned healthcare engaged the community in discussions about what the community expects of its locally owned healthcare system, particularly around the areas of Leadership in Healthcare Value, Financial Stewardship, Access to Coordinated Care, and Community Health Improvement during its annual Community Conversation today at the Bridgewood in Neenah. ThedaCare leaders led audience members in an open dialogue, covering everything from the quality of health care to how much it all costs.

ThedaCare President and CEO Dean Gruner, MD, flanked by Board Chairman Jon Stellmacher and Jennifer Frank, MD, answered questions from community members while sharing the different steps the Appleton-based system is taking to improve patient care and keep costs in line.

“Since ThedaCare is community owned, everyone in this room, as well as everyone living in the area, is an owner. We are all part of ThedaCare,” Dr. Gruner said. “Everyone plays a role in improving healthcare and making our communities a healthier and better place to live.”

ThedaCare frequently turns to its patients and community members to develop ways to improve its care. For example in Shawano, ThedaCare worked with local residents on the design of the new ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano, which began construction in August.

“It’s essential to get feedback from the community and patients on how we’re doing,” said Jon Stellmacher, president of the ThedaCare Board of Directors. “We are committed to providing the best care possible and to do that, we need to listen.”

In 2012, ThedaCare joined with Bellin Health of Green Bay to be one of 32 organizations nationwide to participate in Medicare’s Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO). The ACO compensates hospitals and healthcare systems based on how healthy patients become in their care, not on how many procedures they perform. In its first year, Bellin-ThedaCare Healthcare Partners stood out in the nation as the pilot’s lowest-cost provider. At the same time, the partnership’s healthcare outcomes ranked among the top two.

While ThedaCare gained national attention – and was featured in The Wall Street Journal – for its ACO success, Dr. Gruner said it all comes back to the system’s mission of improving the community’s health.

“The attention we get for our success is nice, but when it comes down to it, our patients and community are why we do what we do,” he said. “When our approach helps make healthcare more affordable, local residents and their families thrive and our community thrives. In other words, our patients’ health drives the region’s economic health.”

Stellmacher said the health system is focused on keeping costs in check and keeping local residents healthy. “Everyone knows healthcare is expensive and ThedaCare is taking several steps to keep costs in check,” he said.

For example, ThedaCare used two pilot programs to lower hospital readmissions – and the costs associated with them. The two programs help staff members stay connected with patients after they are released from the hospital, Dr. Gruner said. Transition coordinators visit elderly patients – the largest demographic most likely to be readmitted — at home after a hospital stay and review treatment plans. Patient call backs are the second part of the plan and help keep discharged patients on track by connecting with them over the phone to make sure they are taking their medications, following their treatment plan, and reminding them of upcoming follow-up visits. With those programs in place, hospital readmissions for patients within 30 days fell to 7.9 percent – well below the goal of 8.2 percent.

“If on average, the value of readmission is conservatively $8,000, that means by reducing the number of readmissions to the hospital by 125 this past year, ThedaCare will not see more than $1 million in revenue. This is just one of the many examples of ThedaCare doing the right thing for the patient, but taking a hit to the bottom line as well,” Dr. Gruner said.

Stellmacher said ThedaCare’s commitment to health goes beyond the walls of its hospitals and clinics through its Community Health Action Team (CHAT). As part of CHAT, ThedaCare and community leaders come together to study local health priorities and develop collaborative solutions involving the whole community. Earlier this year, more than 150 community members gathered for a two-day Weight of the Fox Valley Summit, which was planned by CHAT in collaboration with other organizations, to look at the local obesity epidemic and began developing a long-term plan to reverse obesity trends.

“It’s not just about what happens inside ThedaCare, but what can we do in the community to improve the health of area residents?” he said. “It’s something we are all working together on.”

ThedaCare also gives back through its community by providing $41,810,394 in unreimbursed services, including unreimbursed medical care, health professional education, and community benefit activities, to local communities in 2012.

In the coming weeks, ThedaCare will hold additional community conversations in New London, Oshkosh, Shawano, and Waupaca.

Anyone wishing to receive a print copy of today’s report can contact Paula Morgen, community health manager for ThedaCare, at (920) 830-5848 or

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of five hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, New London Family Medical Center, Shawano Medical Center, and Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, and ThedaCare at Home. ThedaCare is the largest employer in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees. Those interested can follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.