Billings Clinic: Setting the Standard in Big Sky Country

In 1911, Arthur Movius, MD, a surgeon, founded his clinical practice in Billings, Mont. What started as a small, physician-led operation has both changed and stayed the same: The practice expanded into Billings Clinic, the largest healthcare organization in Montana, but physician leadership remains as the cornerstone for the group's success.

At the core of Billings Clinic is its 285-bed hospital and integrated multispecialty group. Nicholas Wolter, MD, who has a background in pulmonary and critical care medicine, leads the health system as CEO.  

Defining Billings Clinic as a "great" hospital isn't difficult to do: It was the first Magnet-designated organization in Montana, was named one of Truven Health Analytics' 100 Top Hospitals in 2013, earned high marks from The Leapfrog Group for patient safety and consistently ranks among the best Montana providers according to U.S. News & World Report.

But Billings Clinic's excellence goes beyond the rankings and grades. Last year, the organization launched the first internal medicine residency in Montana and received accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. In addition to its early adoption of the accountable care organization framework, Billings Clinic has built partnerships with rural hospitals in the area to better integrate care. At the end of 2013, Billings Clinic had an affiliation or management agreement within 11 critical access hospitals throughout Montana and Wyoming, with the hopes of improving the care continuum through physician-led solutions.

"Billings Clinic believes in the long-term benefits for patients with these new relationships," says Dr. Wolter, who previously served two terms as a commissioner on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, or MedPAC. "By working together, we can make a positive difference in how healthcare is delivered in the region."

Looking ahead, the organization doesn't plan to rest on its laurels. Instead, Dr. Wolter, physician leaders and other members of the executive team want to find ways to refine their ACO, continue the integration of electronic health records and expand their reach through population health management.

"Billings Clinic has committed itself to performing at the highest levels possible in patient safety, quality, service and value," Dr. Wolter says. "Many of our initiatives have led to significant successes, but we remain humble, recognizing that continuous improvement is a key strategic and cultural imperative."


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