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Award recognizes Bitterroot Health as #4 "critical access" hospital in U.S.

Posted at 3:58 PM, Mar 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-07 18:06:25-05

HAMILTON — The CEO of Bitterroot Health says a new national award is a recognition of accomplishment that's taken several years to receive. And he feels it's a "perfect" reflection of the original efforts to bring a hospital to the valley.

There've been a variety of awards in recent years for the organization now known collectively as Bitterroot Health. But the latest from the LOWN Institute is unique, rating 3,000 hospitals and health care systems on criteria such as social responsibility with regard to cost, healthy outcomes and benefits to a community. That includes rural, critical access hospitals, with Bitterroot Health Daly Hospital named tops in Montana — and number 4 in the U.S.
"I think it's great to have an objective review of who we are," Bitterroot Health CEO John Bishop told me last week. "You know it looks at 54 different measures. It really looks at all aspects of the organization and has kind of a balanced approach to making sure that we achieve those things that we need to as a hospital."

The one category I'd never seen before is "social responsibility". Bishop explains it covers everything from the cost of care to the hospital's role as Ravalli County's largest employer and part of the community.
"As a not-for-profit critical access hospital, we're here for everyone. And so, ensuring that the care that we provide is not only accessible and high quality, but it's accessible to everyone and that the role we play in the community is much greater than just health care. 

"It looks at how we provide care to individuals who maybe don't have the same economic means as others," Bishop says. "We make sure we provide care to everyone regardless of age or race or gender, and it reflects our community and how well we do taking care of the community we have. 

Bishop says he finds the broad, overall look of the LOWN Institute Award to be the most useful, as a measure of how Bitterroot Health is doing across the board.

"The fact that it took the time to back up and look at the whole responsibility and say we're not going to focus on just, you know, quality or just the patient experience or just safety or just value or just cost or just social responsibility. We're going to look at every piece in part of the organization and take a holistic approach." 

Bishop told MTN News the award is especially gratifying considering the challenges rural health has faced over the past two years of the pandemic. He says the physicians and staff have responded, continuing the quality of care despite COVID obstacles.

"You know that's the roots of our organization," Bishop says, noting the decision to start the hospital in 1931. "That's when Margaret Daly and a team of board members and individuals put together the original Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital. And their vision was to provide care for all within this community, regardless of their ability to pay or any other factor that might discriminate them from accessing good care. And this particular award reflects that mission perfectly."