You may have noticed a recent change at Dean & St. Mary’s – new signs, a new look and a new name. The change is significant, but this new name – SSM Health – is a thoughtful, meaningful change.
Who is SSM Health?
SSM Health is a Catholic, not-for-profit health system based in St. Louis, MO. With physicians, hospitals and health services in four states – Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma – SSM Health is one of the largest integrated health systems in the country.
Here in Wisconsin, SSM Health includes St. Mary’s Hospitals in Madison and Janesville, St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo, the more than 50 Dean Medical Group locations, Dean Health Plan, St. Mary’s Care Center in Madison, St. Clare Meadows Care Center in Baraboo and Navitus, a pharmacy benefit management services company.
SSM Health is also a health care organization with a Mission, a purpose.
“Our purpose is to heal and serve. We do this through exceptional care, quality and service,” says Damond Boatwright, SSM Health Regional President of Hospital Operations. “While our name has changed, our Mission and commitment to caring for the whole person has not.”
SSM Health has a long standing tradition of providing exceptional and compassionate care to patients. The organization was founded in 1872 by a small congregation of nuns known as the Sisters of St. Mary. These sisters immigrated to St. Louis from Germany, arriving with just $5.00 to provide care to the sick.
Throughout the following decades, the sisters answered the call to care for sick and poor people across Missouri, Oklahoma and Illinois. In the early 1900s a plea for help came from Wisconsin – a request to build a hospital in Madison.
In 1912 the sisters opened St. Mary’s Hospital, partnering with one of the local physicians who petitioned for a new hospital – Dr. Joseph Dean of Dean Clinic. This partnership continued through 2013 when SSM Health and Dean Clinic officially joined as one organization. Throughout the past century SSM Health has answered the call to help other Wisconsin communities, opening St. Clare Hospital in 1963, opening primary and specialty care locations across south-central Wisconsin and building St. Mary’s Hospital in Janesville in 2012.
“Though SSM Health has been providing high-quality compassionate health care services in Wisconsin for generations, we are making this change now to formally connect our facilities and services,” says Boatwright. “Uniting under one name gives us the opportunity to show that our Mission, our physicians and staff and our services are all committed to what our founding sisters were committed to – the people we serve.”
What does this change mean for patients?
This change means exciting things for SSM Health’s patients. First and foremost, it means the organization’s commitment to patient centered care is stronger than ever. Patients will continue to receive exceptional care and, in many cases, will benefit from SSM Health’s dedication to providing care closer to home. Recently SSM Health opened a new cancer care unit in Janesville. The $10 million expansion includes a state-of-the-art linear accelerator which helps physicians administer treatments with precision. SSM Health is in the process of installing the same equipment as part of a renovation on the Baraboo campus, which will begin seeing patients in November.
Driving long distances to specialty appointments can put an undue burden on patients. SSM Health is working to address these challenges by offering more telehealth services to patients in the Baraboo area. Innovations in technology allow specialists in various services like infectious disease or the Intensive Care Unit to care for patients from other locations using a video link connection similar to Skype or FaceTime. Later this year the SSM Health St. Clare Center in Baraboo will begin using telepsychology as part of their addiction treatment services.
In Madison, work is underway to expand mental health services, including a renovation to the behavioral health unit at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital. Earlier in 2016, the hospital began offering a first in Madison technology that allows certain heart failure patients to receive closer monitoring of their condition through a device called CardioMEMS. This small, implanted device can send daily updates to the care team and catch life-threatening changes early, helping patients avoid hospital stays.
Insurance products offered by Dean Health Plan are routinely reviewed for ways to update the products available to all health care consumers, including the 2015 addition of a Medicare Advantage product that meets the needs of a growing older adult population.
Creating unique partnerships and offering cutting edge services is something SSM Health takes pride in doing.
“As we care for and serve our patients and members, our interactions with them define who we are and what we stand for,” said Boatwright. “We take the responsibility of their health into our hands and we are privileged to do so. We’re proud so many people choose us for their care and we will continue to work tirelessly for them.”
What does this change mean for community?
Just as SSM Health is committed to the health of its patients, the organization is also committed to the health of the communities it serves. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) created a Division of Community Health as a way to help Americans prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Through coordinated efforts across the country, local public health departments, hospitals and community groups are bringing sharper focus to these chronic diseases as a way to both improve quality of life for those living with chronic conditions, as well as prevent more people from developing those conditions.
To respond to identified needs in our communities, SSM Health has a dedicated team working on community partnerships that provide real results in helping those living in our community get and stay healthy.
Programs like the BSP Free Clinic, SSM Health’s Parish Nurses and many others help doctors, nurses and staff deliver care to our area’s underserved residents.
New in 2016, SSM Health announced an innovative way to commit to the health of its community through the Helping Dane County to be Healthy grant.
“We realized that in addition to the services and support we already provide more help is needed,” says Boatwright. “We know that to make a significant impact on Dane County’s health priorities, we need to create lasting partnerships and that local non-profits would need additional funding.”
Over the course of the next three years, the program will provide up to $450,000 in total funding to local non-profit organizations focused on improving health in the priority areas of mental health, chronic disease and maternal child health.
In January, SSM Health announced the winners of the first year of funding support:
• Second Harvest Food Bank – Funding will benefit the Diabetes Wellness Program, a nine-month effort that will help at least 200 people better control their disease. The program includes distribution of food boxes especially packaged for those coping with diabetes. Second Harvest plans to expand the program into Rock and Sauk counties during the program’s second and third year of operation.
• Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation – The grant will support an in-home smoking cessation program for pregnant women – that will continue six months after they deliver their babies – as well as provide services for adults in their support networks. This program will also be available to Rock and Sauk counties in its second and third year.
• Catholic Charities – Focusing on youth suicide prevention in Wisconsin, the grant will fund a program to bring mental health services to rural school age children in Deerfield and Marshall.
• Rebalanced Life Wellness Association – By funding mentorship and education, the grant will help high risk African American men increase physical activity, learn about healthy eating and nutrition, and promote volunteerism and social support.
“SSM Health holds dear our vow to the communities and patients we serve each day,” says Boatwright. “While our look – and name – may be changing, our Mission and commitment to provide an exceptional experience to every patient remains the same – just as the sisters made it their Mission and commitment 140 years ago.”