Advisers on speed dial: Saint Luke's CEO and CFO on what makes a smart network

Smart healthcare networks aren't just rooted in technology. They also rely on research, education and personal connection. 

That's the key takeaway from a session on smart networks at the Becker's CEO + CFO virtual forum on Aug. 11. The panel included Melinda Estes, MD, president and CEO of Kansas City-based Saint Luke's Health System, and the health system's senior vice president and CFO Chuck Robb.

Here is an excerpt from the conversation, lightly edited for clarity. To view the full session on demand, click here

Question: How would you define a smart network? 

Dr. Melinda Estes: Smart healthcare goes beyond connecting patients and providers with innovative technology. It's clearly essential, but technology is the currency of the new network. It's the standard price of admission. Smart networks are defined by technology that leads to better diagnostic tools and treatment for patients and devices that improve the quality of life for everyone. Not only our patients, but also our increasingly scarce and stressed healthcare providers. The goal of a smart network ought to be to make things cheaper, faster, smarter, more secure, easier and more relevant. Smart healthcare obviously includes e-health services, EHRs, home services and connected medical devices. But you can also view it in a more broad context from an administrative perspective.

Chuck Robb: That perspective includes some traditional and nontraditional networks that are increasingly technology-based. Telehealth has been a critical network for us, particularly during the pandemic. Additionally, in the last number of years, we've developed some new networks, including the BJC Collaborative (a collaboration created by BJC HealthCare of St. Louis, Saint Luke's, CoxHealth of Springfield, Mo., and Memorial Health System of Springfield, Ill.). It allows like-minded leading institutions in various markets to work together in a non-ownership structure. Not competitors, but collaborators — and that's been a powerful network. All of these networks during this time of no travel and limited personal contact have functioned very well in a technology-based way, and that's been important.

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