44 pages, dozens of programs, billions of dollars

December 2nd, 2015

UCHealth’s first-ever Community Benefits Report has hit the streets and the web. It’s got some big numbers: UCHealth’s estimated $4.6 billion in annual economic impact; the $500 million the system and its hospitals spend each year on financial assistance; and the $89 million UCHealth invests each year in the University of Colorado School of Medicine to support its clinical, academic, and research expertise.

But perhaps the biggest impression the report leaves is how many different things – financial and otherwise – UCHealth, its hospitals, and its clinics are doing for communities across Colorado.

Did you know, for example, that UCHealth Northern Colorado employees donated more than $1 million to build Poudre Valley Hospital’s new cancer center, or that UCHealth’s Aspen Club in northern Colorado (which provides health education, low-cost health screenings and social opportunities to the over-50 set) boasts 22,000 members? That UCHealth Colorado Springs’ HealthLink service has a Nurse Advisor Call Center that provides the community with expert medical advice at no charge – and has saved lives? That UCHealth invests $28 million a year in resident physician and provider training on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora? That UCHealth has more than 100 clinics in addition to its hospitals?

Huge effort

If not, you wouldn’t be alone. There are dozens more examples like these in the eight-inch-by-12-inch glossy’s 44 pages. Jeff Thompson, UCHealth’s vice president of government and corporate relations and the man who provided the impetus to create the report, was among those surprised by just how much UCHealth has been involved in.

“It was so eye-opening to me, all the things we are doing across our communities,” Thompson said. “Until you see many of the programs, activities, subsidized care, and the related dollar investments in one place, you don’t understand the magnitude of all that we’re doing.”

Historically, Thompson has relied mainly on individual fact sheets, such as “Care to Colorado’s Underserved Populations,” to convey aspects of UCHealth’s broad community efforts. Developing the Community Benefits Report was one of the first initiatives UCHealth President and CEO Liz Concordia assigned him after her arrival in September 2014.

“It would be an understatement to say that Liz was enthusiastic to see this report produced,” Thompson said. “I was delighted to have the opportunity to develop and publish it.”

He put together a team spearheaded by Mandy Ellefson, UCHealth’s manager of corporate and government relations; and Kate McDaniel, a UCHealth marketing strategist. They in turn enlisted finance and decision-support teams to work the numbers as well as those in the know about specific programs from across UCHealth, in particular Annette Alfano, the UCHealth Northern Colorado data analyst responsible for community health needs assessment; and Brian Baxter in Colorado Springs, who directs the HealthLink program.

McDaniel brought in a photographer to take original shots of patients, providers, and others across the system for the publication. It all took months.

“This was a huge team effort,” Thompson said. “I’m really proud of and so grateful for all of the time, focus, talents, and energy that so many people committed to pull it together.”

Getting the word out

While the report itself is focused on the UCHealth whole, the exercise shed light on how the different histories of UCHealth’s hospitals in northern Colorado, metro Denver, and Colorado Springs influenced their community roles, Alfano said. The nonprofit northern Colorado community hospitals Poudre Valley Hospital and Medical Center of the Rockies had a legacy of education, chronic disease management, and many other community-outreach programs; University of Colorado Hospital, as an academic medical center, focused on supporting medical education, training, and research; and during its long tenure as a city-owned facility, Memorial Hospital focused on a smaller number of health-access and education programs anchored by HealthLink.

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and that message is particularly vital at a time when health care costs are garnering increasing public attention. Just how much a community gains from a hospital or health care system’s presence, in contrast, is not as well-understood. For example, how many people know that UCHealth saw 170,000 medically underserved patients in fiscal 2015 while amassing nearly $185 million in uncompensated care costs and another $185 million in costs associated with UCHealth patients whose care went beyond what federal payers would cover?

“It’s incumbent upon us to realize that we are a huge benefactor to the communities we serve,” Thompson said. “We need to let those communities know about it.”

Thompson and his team is in the process of doing just that, putting together mailing lists and cover letters for city councils, county commissions, mayors, local public health departments, health care-focused community organizations, chambers of commerce, community business development organizations, and others. The governor’s office, state legislators, and Colorado’s U.S. congressional delegations will also be receiving copies. Thompson has already personally delivered a few to the Executive Director’s Office at the Colorado Department of Healthcare Policy and Financing.

“As we continue to identify more people and organizations who should see this report, the first print run of 600 will probably not be enough,” he said.

Given the rapid changes happening in health care and across UCHealth, the Community Benefits Report 2015 won’t have a long shelf life anyway. And that’s okay, because Thompson’s planning on a 2016 edition, too.

“We now have a great template and baseline from which to start,” he said.

Read it online

UCHealth’s UCHealth’s Community Benefits Report 2015.

About the author

Since 2008, Todd Neff has written hundreds of stories for University of Colorado Hospital and UCHealth. He covered science and the environment for the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado, and has taught narrative nonfiction at the University of Colorado. He was a 2007-2008 Ted Scripps Fellowship recipient in Environmental Journalism at CU.

His latest book, "The Laser That’s Changing the World," tells the story of the inventors and innovators who saw, and ultimately realized, the potential of lidar to help solve problems ranging from smokestack-pollution detection, ice-sheet mapping, disaster recovery, and, ultimately, autonomous-vehicle guidance, among many other uses. His first book, "From Jars to the Stars," recounts how Ball Aerospace evolved from an Indiana jar company - and a group of students in a University of Colorado basement - to an organization that managed to blast a sizable crater in the comet 9P/Tempel 1. "Jars" won the Colorado Book Award for History in 2012.

Todd graduated with a business degree from the University of Michigan, where he played soccer, and with a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Before becoming a journalist at the turn of the millennium, he was an IT and strategy consultant. He once spoke fluent Japanese and still speaks fluent German.

When not writing, he spends time with teenage daughters and wife Carol, plays soccer, and allows himself to be bullied by a puggle he outweighs by a factor of seven.