Efficient Care and Service

Across our network in 2014, we strengthened our pledge to provide high-quality medical services and do our part in reducing overall health care costs. We sought to save patients, government payers and health plan providers hundreds of millions of dollars by instituting more efficient ways of working across our organization—from hospital care units and doctors’ offices to building-maintenance and clerical departments. By the end of 2014, for example, our new streamlined center for business support services achieved nearly $185 million in savings and cost improvements for Sutter Health.

Shared imaging system enhances care

A centralized medical imaging system launched in 2014 has given our care providers the ability to quickly, efficiently and securely view diagnostic images taken at any Sutter Health hospital or clinic. Replacing the proprietary systems at our hospitals and care centers, the shared system enables radiologists, orthopedists, pathologists, cardiologists and other specialists to view X-rays, MRI scans and other sophisticated diagnostic imagery as part of patients’ electronic health record. Once fully implemented, the system will give doctors seamless access to the comprehensive information they need to provide patients with the best care possible. Patients can avoid time-consuming repeat scans and unnecessary radiation exposure, and our unified system will save Sutter Health an estimated $8 million to $10 million every year.

Sutter Health radiologists John Bokelman, M.D., left, and Christopher Kagay, M.D., view computerized tomography scans through our new networkwide medical imaging system.
Sutter Health radiologists John Bokelman, M.D., left, and Christopher Kagay, M.D., view computerized tomography scans through our new networkwide medical imaging system.

Screening guidelines help save money

Many doctors nationwide routinely screen an increasing number of patients for vitamin D deficiency, despite insufficient scientific evidence of the preventive health benefits. With this in mind, we examined data across our network in 2014 and concluded that routine vitamin D screening resulted in unnecessary tests and increased costs for our patients and for Sutter Health. In early 2014, a small group of Sutter Health physicians from the Santa Rosa area created evidence-based guidelines that encourage doctors to screen for vitamin D deficiency only when medically appropriate. As a result, in one year we reduced unnecessary screenings by half, saving nearly $40,000.

New processes serve families faster

Long waits in doctors’ offices can increase patients’ stress and contribute to higher overall health care costs. In 2014, several pediatric offices in our Sutter Health network tested ways to reduce the time parents wait for vital health immunizations for their children. Working together, pediatric staff redesigned outdated work processes so the best qualified clinicians could administer the needed vaccines quickly. As a result, parents spend less time waiting in exam rooms, allowing doctors to see more patients and staff to work more efficiently.

Patients benefit from uniform testing

Committed to keeping patients healthy while also reducing overall costs of care, Sutter Health developed a standardized approach to cervical cancer screening that better reflects new national guidelines. Medical societies no longer recommend yearly Pap tests for all women and now require testing for human papillomavirus (HPV). Women’s health doctors across our network evaluated their screening practices and created a Sutter Health standard based on the national guidelines. Since 2013, our new approach to screening has helped us reduce the rate of unnecessary Pap smears, increase appropriate testing for HPV and reduce costs by $1 million. No women experienced delayed detection of cervical cancer as a result of less frequent Pap tests.