UnityPoint Health redefines health care

By Ted Townsend / Guest Editorial

Health care in the United States is changing. It’s no secret that the Affordable Care Act requires providers to stop conducting business as usual. Its goal is to increase coverage and improve services while lowering costs. But that’s not the only reason health care providers are quickly evolving the way we treat patients. For those of us with a lot of skin in the game – such as hospitals and networks of providers – creating a better model of care is necessary because the current fee-for-service system that drives volume is simply unsustainable.

St. Luke’s and the Iowa Health System are uniquely positioned, as the fifth largest nondenominational health system in the country, to lead changes in health care that focus on care for a lifetime, not a visit, test or admission alone. Our network of providers incorporates all levels of care, from hospital to doctor to home health, and spans a sizable geographical region. We can make a strong impact on the communities we serve. So we’ve decided to lead the change toward health management and disease prevention to improve care while lowering costs. In my view, it’s what we wanted to do all along but we’ve been working against decades of industry regulation and incentives, technology and specialty evolution and a culture of defeating death versus getting on with life.

It makes sense to reflect this degree of change in the name of our health system. UnityPoint Health, the name we chose to replace the name Iowa Health System, tells the world we’re approaching healthcare in a new and better way, focusing more on patients and coordinating their care. And because we are no longer just an Iowa organization, this name better represents our partners in Illinois than did our previous name.

St. Luke’s Hospital will still be known as St. Luke’s Hospital. We are affiliates of UnityPoint Health. All former St. Luke’s Physicians and Clinics will now be called UnityPoint Clinics. All of our home care entities such as Hospice, Home Medical Equipment and Visiting Nurses Association, will be called UnityPoint at Home. We have developed a team-based approach with our clinic and home health partners over the years, and the name UnityPoint Health demonstrates the way our network has become a point of unity for our patients.

The name change is a result of two years of discussions and research. Our regional affiliates, board of directors, physicians, staff and most importantly, our patients, came together to determine the best way to position our organization for the future. We developed a strategic plan focused on a new care coordination model, expansion and organizational growth. There will be no change in management, structure or staff involved in this brand change. Overall, UnityPoint Health employs more than 24,000 individuals throughout Iowa and Illinois, and each region will maintain its existing leadership and local boards of directors.

Iowa Health System began in 1993, when Iowa Methodist and Iowa Lutheran in Des Moines merged. At the time, the merger created the state’s largest provider of hospital and related health services. St. Luke’s became an Iowa Health System affiliate the following year. Throughout the decades, our health system has expanded its geographic reach across Iowa and into Illinois, and developed comprehensive services throughout the region. Today, UnityPoint Health is now one of the nation’s most integrated health systems.

At St. Luke’s, we are redefining ourselves to become a fully integrated delivery system that includes doctors, long-term care, home health and a host of other services. We believe we can best coordinate our patients’ care with a more organized system of care. Unifying the distinct elements of health care in new ways will allow us to do what’s best for the patient and their family. At the end of the day, St. Luke’s true purpose and mission has been to give the health care we’d like our loved one to receive.

We think we can do that better than ever.


Ted Townsend is president and CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids.