Year in review: Thinking differently, acting boldly

There’s no such thing as an uneventful year for the health care industry, but 2023 nonetheless stood out as particularly eventful. From staffing shortages and Medicaid changes to progress in artificial intelligence and the imperative to advance health equity, hospitals and health systems confronted ongoing upheaval—while continuing to demonstrate a powerful spirit of resilience.

This past year was especially momentous for Advocate Health, as December marked the one-year anniversary of Advocate Aurora Health and Atrium Health officially coming together as a unified organization. Together, we have taken strides that would have been nearly impossible alone—and that ultimately have enabled us to better care for our patients.

We joined forces in 2022 because our industry’s pressures and challenges continue to mount—and together we knew we could innovate to serve the growing needs of our communities and create a better tomorrow for generations to come. One year in, I’m humbled by the extraordinary accomplishments of my 155,000 colleagues, as well as by the amount of work that remains.

In a period of unyielding challenge, we know hospitals and health systems must be courageous enough to think differently and act boldly. We not only can but must do it. Our ability to continue delivering health, hope and healing depends on it.

How do we—and providers everywhere—tackle such an overwhelming mandate? It begins by focusing on a single guiding question: “Is this work making our patients and communities better?”

At Advocate Health, we ask that question every day to hold ourselves accountable to the six pledges we made for our patients and communities, which guide our organization. It’s why I am proud of the successes the team has accomplished this year. I’m particularly proud of investing a record $5.9 billion in community benefits, as well as saving $200 million through synergies in our first year. And we are just getting started.

Some additional progress we have made on these key pledges include:

  • As a first step to our commitment to elevating clinical preeminence and safety, we have created an enterprise-wide Health Outcomes dashboard so that we remain first and foremost a safe clinical enterprise from the most rural to most urban communities we serve. We have also made major progress in reducing care variation, which by some estimate's costs $30 million per hospital.
  • When it comes to advancing health equity, we are embedding programs throughout our care sites and across our footprint, aiming to rapidly scale best practices that provide equitable access to medical care, address social factors that impact health and close a range of other care gaps. In just one example, we reduced uncontrolled hypertension among our Black patient populations considerably: 5% among those with diabetes in the Charlotte market and 9% among those in the Midwest region. To further this work and spread change on a national scale, we’re launching the Advocate National Center for Health Equity.
  • We are working to improve affordability and make care more accessible by expanding and simplifying our financial aid. We’ve aligned financial assistance policies across the entire organization, offering 100% charity care to all patients whose income is up to 300% of the federal poverty level. More broadly, we’re committed to lead the national transition to value-based care, to improve care while controlling costs. Our affiliated ACOs for example, generated $129.2 million in total savings through the Medicare Shared Savings Program.
  • In response to national health care staffing challenges, we are building a next-generation workforce. We hired more than 8,000 new teammates, including more than 2,300 new nurses, and saw 13,900 teammates take advantage of our workforce development and educational assistance programs.
  • We pressed ahead in accelerating learning and discovery, celebrating the groundbreaking for Wake Forest University School of Medicine Charlotte and the surrounding innovation district, The Pearl—a new front in our quest to reshape health care delivery while serving as an economic engine. And we now have a single Institutional Review Board with access to our 68 hospitals and over 1,000 other care sites.
  • Finally, we are focused on leading environmental sustainability by increasing energy efficiency at our new facilities (including a net carbon zero medical school), growing our fleet of electric vehicles and implementing sustainable supply chain sourcing.

While I’m proud of the accomplishments of the team in our first year, the sobering truth is our entire health care field is in intensive care and we must work harder and smarter than ever to stabilize it.

So, as we enter 2024, our goal the same time next year is to have countless more proof points on how we have made our patients and our communities lives better— and how we wrapped our arms around those who need it most to deliver on the promise of improving health, elevating hope and advancing healing FOR ALL.

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