LMH Health invites University of Kansas Health System to consider clinical relationship to support expanded patient care

Published on August 18, 2021

LMH Health invites University of Kansas Health System to consider clinical relationship to support expanded patient care in the Lawrence area

LMH Health has invited the University of Kansas Health System (UKHS) to discuss a potential clinical relationship. Conversations, which are now underway, are aimed at increasing access to highly specialized care across the community hospital’s service area.

“More than 18 months ago, LMH Health convened our board members, providers and stakeholders to discuss how a strategic clinical relationship with a larger health system could benefit the patients and communities LMH Health serves,” said LMH Health President & CEO Russ Johnson. “In every decision we make, our patients are our most important stakeholders. Our goal in collaborating with UKHS is to increase patient access to exceptional specialty care locally, and we look forward to exploring the feasibility of creating a formal agreement with UKHS in this realm.”

LMH Health defines a strategic clinical relationship as a collaborative commitment to shared success. Over the next several months, LMH Health administrators and providers will lead discussions with UKHS to determine if the systems can develop a committed relationship focused on clinical, strategic and operational improvements, while honoring the guardrails set by the LMH Health Board of Trustees—the most important of which is maintaining LMH’s independence.

“LMH is not for sale,” Johnson said. “We have parameters in place that protect our independence and charitable care mission while allowing us to increase access to exceptional clinical care locally. Ultimately, our goal in collaborating with UKHS is to create a positive patient experience. We are at the outset of what will likely be a very lengthy process to determine feasibility.”

Dr. Stuart Thomas, LMH Health Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, said conversations with UKHS will explore opportunities to align clinical programs wherever it is in the best interest of patients—opportunities providers and stakeholders at LMH have spent more than a year and a half identifying.

“We are considering models that expand our scope as a healthcare system, while creating higher value for our patients,” said Thomas, a gastroenterology physician at LMH Health.  “Extensive feedback from our providers has determined that developing a clinical relationship with UKHS specifically can help us improve clinical care, in lock step with Destination Health, our strategic plan. Respect, trust, innovation and commitment to mutual success will be vital.”

Dr. Walter Ingram, internal medicine physician who has served on the LMH Health clinical relationship steering committee since 2019, explained that provider clinical and referral choices must continue to be made in the best interests of patients.

“Should this relationship come to fruition, it must reinforce—not restrict—patient choice,” said Ingram. “As such, there will be little noticeable change for our patients. You will still continue to see your local providers, and they can assist you by navigating highly specialized care when and where it’s needed. Overall, you can trust that your providers will continue to offer the guidance you need to make the best decisions for your health, just as you do now.

Guardrails honoring patient choice are just part of the parameters that will guide conversations with UKHS. UKHS has accepted these must-have agreements in order to enter into discussions for strategic clinical relationship:

  • LMH Health will maintain its independent ownership and governance.
  • LMH Health will be regarded as a valued, significant counterpart and as the final authority for decisions in our market.
  • Medical staff must be able to make clinical and referral choices in the best interests of our patients. A relationship cannot interfere with patient choice.
  • A relationship will uphold LMH Health’s purpose - A Partner for Lifelong Health, in alignment with our strategic plan, values and culture.

“As we worked with the Board of Trustees to establish these guardrails, we agreed to only consider a relationship with an entity with strong financial performance and stability,” said Johnson. “Our community hospital has a very strong financial standing, having just received a renewed A Rating with a strong outlook from Standard & Poor’s – an almost unheard of accomplishment for a system of our size.”

Financial strength is an imperative for LMH Health, given its mission as a charitable care hospital with a commitment to providing more than $25 million in financial assistance to patients across the community each year. Johnson said he believes UKHS will be a thoughtful and willing collaborator in ensuring expanded care for all, regardless of ability to pay.

Bob Page, president and CEO of the University of Kansas Health System, said the health system was looking forward to exploring a strategic clinical relationship with LMH Health.

“As a resource for the region and part of the state’s only academic health system, we are honored to have been asked into this conversation,” said Page. “We look forward to more discussions about ways we can help LMH Health provide more high quality, specialty care services in Lawrence and the surrounding community. “

LMH Health and UKHS will meet regularly in the coming weeks to discuss the potential arrangement.

“This is the beginning of a conversation—not yet a commitment—to explore a long-lasting relationship that benefits patients locally,” said Johnson. “We’ll keep the community informed every step of the way.”

Bob Moody, Chair of the Board of Trustees, affirmed this commitment to transparency.

“We are committed to keeping our clinicians, staff, patients and community informed about how we’re proceeding with a strategic clinical relationship,” said Moody. “A relationship with UKHS is desired, but it’s not required. We believe now is the best time to explore this option, as we are approaching these conversations from a position of strength.”

Over the past few months, LMH Health sought feedback on the potential benefits of a strategic relationship from dozens of patients, community leaders and other stakeholders, including Sandy Praeger, former Kansas Insurance Commissioner.

“Healthcare is evolving, and the pace of change is accelerating,” said Praeger, who also served as mayor of Lawrence. “Now is a good time to explore potential strategic relationships and see if there is a creative way to maximize clinical services for our community while honoring our charitable care mission and respecting the excellent care provided by our team of health care professionals. LMH Health is in a strong position as a community-owned hospital. Local control cannot and should not be weakened by an affiliation with another facility.”

LMH Health Trustee Beth Llewellyn said she feels fortunate to have such high quality care locally, and she affirmed the board will make decisions with patients at the forefront.

“LMH is recognized today as an exceptional community hospital, we’re building an extraordinary continuum of care system to manage any healthcare need,” said Llewellyn. “We look forward to exploring a collaboration that will allow us to continue to invest on the community’s behalf in leading edge services, ensuring the highest quality of care in primary care, internal medicine, orthopedics, oncology, cardiology and beyond.”