Recipients of HealthTrust’s 2021 Member Recognition Awards are taking a community-first approach

Each year, HealthTrust recognizes the best of the best through its Member Recognition Awards. These honors are given to healthcare facilities committed to excellence in a variety of areas, from supply chain and clinical operations, to pharmacy and sustainability initiatives.

This year’s awards—given at the annual HealthTrust University Conference in Nashville, Tennessee—highlight facilities that have put their communities first, whether that has meant educating people about COVID-19, improving the environment through cutting-edge sustainability projects or ensuring patients had access to necessary prescriptions.

Take a look at this year’s shining stars.

Outstanding Member Award

Outstanding Member: Surgery Partners From left to right: Natalie Gustafson, Jessica Rodriguez, Rick Salzer, Kathy Kilgore, Joye Booher

Surgery Partners, which operates more than 140 surgical facilities across the country, received the annual award for Outstanding Member by leveraging HealthTrust group purchasing organization (GPO) contracts to improve systemwide performance and achieve significant savings.

“In a year when so many of us were so focused on dealing with the challenges of COVID, our team was able to ensure that our doctors, clinicians and patients had what they needed. At the same time, we continued to expand our business relationship with HealthTrust,” says Rick Salzer, Senior Vice President, Procurement and Supply Chain.

Surgery Partners acquired National Surgical Healthcare in 2017, and since then, the company has seen immense growth due to several key initiatives in neurostimulation, spine implants and osteobiologics. In addition, the company achieved success by conducting individual site reviews, which looked at everything from spend history to opportunity analysis.

The results? Contract volume grew by 200%, while contract adoption went from 32% in 2018 to 54% in 2020. This translated to a GPO volume of over $292 million in 2020. Surgery Partners’ category utilization also grew, increasing from 468 categories in 2018 to 547 in 2020.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized for this award, especially considering all of the outstanding members in the HealthTrust organization,” says Salzer. “To receive this recognition­—especially against the backdrop of the COVID pandemic—really speaks to the creativity, hard work and collaboration between the teams at Surgery Partners and HealthTrust.”

Operational Excellence Award

Operational Excellence: QHR Health, PLUS
From left to right: Susan Dorsey, Tracy LaChance, Jeff Kimmell, RPh, Kim Milliken
(Not pictured: Dwayne Gunter)

QHR Health, a healthcare consulting and management company founded in 1977, received the annual award for Operational Excellence after launching its PLUS supply chain program, which was created to align the company’s managed and owned locations. The PLUS program—comprising several multidisciplinary teams—drove significant savings and efficiencies across $1.1 billion in combined contract spend.

“The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges for hospitals and health systems across the country. PLUS embraced this challenge and utilized our Performance Impact Team to meaningfully partner with our hospitals to provide solutions and best practices,” says Jeff Kimmell, RPh, Senior Vice President, Supply Chain and President of PLUS.

With over 150 clients in 40 states, the company primarily partners with independent, rural facilities. Allowing their member facilities access to the HealthTrust contract portfolio drove savings for the hospitals while also increasing volume and leverage for the HealthTrust GPO.

The PLUS program enabled the organization to implement various new reporting capabilities, such as price write-downs for refreshed strategic investment program (SIP) agreements, enhanced S2 contracts and full alignment of LOC tiers. In addition, through the PLUS program, QHR Health created a personal protective equipment (PPE) warehouse so it could provide gloves, masks and gowns to front-line health workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It shipped nearly 52,000 cases of PPE to 115 client sites.

“Receiving the HealthTrust Operational Excellence Award affirms that we are delivering on our commitment to driving efficiencies in contract spend and leveraged savings opportunities for our 150+ hospital and health system clients,” says Kimmell.

Clinical Excellence Award

Clinical Excellence: Southwest Health System
From left to right: Christopher Alvarez; Lindsay Yeager, RPSGT, CCSH; Kelsey Gilbert, PharmD; Marc Meyer, RPh, BPharm, CIC, FAPIC; Sara Crittenden; Matthew Lindsay, NR-Paramedic, CCEMTP

Southwest Health System (SHS) comprises Southwest Memorial Hospital and Southwest Medical Group, which operates various primary care and specialty clinics in Cortez, Colorado. This rural town of fewer than 10,000 residents borders an Indian reservation and is just 30 miles from the Navajo Nation.

SHS received the Clinical Excellence award based on its commitment to providing COVID-19 vaccine access to rural communities while also becoming a national expert throughout the pandemic.

“The Clinical Excellence Award is prestigious, and it means a great deal to our critical access hospital in a very rural area in southwestern Colorado,” says Marc Meyer, RPh, BPharm, CIC, FAPIC, Director of Pharmacy & Infection Control. “It says to everyone that a small hospital that puts patient care foremost, with good action plans, can be recognized along with big healthcare organizations for excellence. It shows that you can receive excellent care close to home.”

At the height of the pandemic, SHS broadcasted hundreds of hours of Facebook Live Q&A sessions and managed a hotline that was available to residents five days a week. The Facebook Live videos drew viewers from across the country, with 900 to 4,000 signed on during each episode. SHS subject matter experts quickly established themselves as national experts, with viewers tuning in all the way from Hawaii.

Once the COVID-19 vaccine became available, SHS quickly deployed 7,400 doses across the health system’s 41 clinics, ensuring rural community members had access to the vaccine. This helped to decrease the COVID-19 positivity rate in the area from 28% to less than 4%.

“I’m very proud of my team for being resilient during the last 18 months of the COVID pandemic. That resilience led to providing excellent care through our vaccine clinic and community outreach education program that was recognized on this national level,” says Meyer.

Social Stewardship—Sustainability Award

Founded as a six-bed frontier hospital in 1902, St. Luke’s Health System has evolved to become Idaho’s largest healthcare provider. Today, St. Luke’s is the only locally governed, Idaho-based, not-for-profit health system, with a network of eight full-service medical centers and hundreds of outpatient centers and clinics serving people throughout southern Idaho, eastern Oregon and northern Nevada.

Earlier this year, St. Luke’s realized it had a shortage of sterile blue wrap, a common issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. The health system quickly came up with a solution by switching to reusable rigid sterilization containers. This systemwide change not only eliminates the hospitals’ reliance on blue wrap, but also has far-reaching environmental benefits. (Although it’s possible to find ways to recycle blue wrap, the logistics of doing so are immensely challenging. Eliminating the use of it altogether is often the most eco-friendly solution.)

Supply chain professionals with St. Luke’s did a thorough analysis of potential solutions to its blue wrap shortage and selected Aesculap rigid sterilization containers as the best option. By moving from blue wrap to containers, St. Luke’s will reduce waste by 160,000 pounds a year, which translates to roughly 100 households’ worth of trash. Although the upfront costs to purchase reusable containers are higher, a return on investment occurs after just three years, and the containers can be used for up to 10 years.

“We are making conscious and systematic efforts to evolve the healthcare supply chain into a network of partners, services and products that focus on holistic sourcing factors, including sustainability,” says Jason Merrill, Senior Director, Supply Chain Management. “I appreciate HealthTrust for recognizing St. Luke’s sustainability efforts. This recognition has given us the opportunity to share our successes with other healthcare providers across the country.”

Team Members (not pictured, as they were unable to attend):

  • Kacey Wear, MSN, RN, BSN, CEN, Clinical Category Director
  • Jason Merrill, Senior Director, Supply Chain Management
  • LaNae Cunningham, Manager, Sterile Processing
  • Taylor Easterday, MBA Finance, KT, Logistics Manager
  • Sam Roberts, MBA, Finance Director
  • Adrian Wengert, MBA, Vice President, Supply Chain

Pharmacy Excellence Award

Pharmacy Excellence: Scripps Health
From left to right: Hardi Tjhie, CPhT; Lisa Risser, CPA, MBA, FACHE, FHFMA; Aaron Ginsberg, PharmD; Betty Richardson, RPh; Kathy Kim, BS, CPhT; Angela Rosenblatt, MS, PharmD, BCPS, BCNSP, APh; Tony Jackson, PharmD, MBA
(Not pictured: Erin Lowrey, CPhT)

Scripps Health, a San Diego-based health system that includes five hospitals and 19 outpatient facilities, received the Pharmacy Excellence Award for its creation of a medication central prior authorization (CPA) department. This department, which comprises 12 staff members, submits and processes prior authorizations for medications in three categories: general, specialty and infusions.

“Scripps has always placed a high value on advancing pharmacy practice,” says Aaron Ginsberg, PharmD, Director of Central Pharmacy Services. “In recent years, Scripps has been highly innovative in the area of ambulatory patient care, including improving patient access to ambulatory medications by establishing a CPA department. We are privileged to have HealthTrust provide national recognition for this important facet of patient care.”

When the CPA department launched in January 2018, the average turnaround time for authorization of episode-based medication (EBM) infusion referrals was 3.5 weeks, while the average turnaround time for fee-for-service (FFS) non-managed-care referrals was 24 days. By March 2019, the CPA team had reduced the total EBM infusion referral turnaround to just 3.7 days and the average FFS, non-managed-care referral turnaround to 2.4 days. And the benefits extended beyond time savings to cost savings: Scripps Health reduced the overall spend in denials on medical claims by more than $500,000 in the first half of fiscal year 2021.

“We have assisted hundreds of thousands of patients in getting access to medications. Otherwise, these patients might not have been able to get the acute treatments and maintenance medications that are the cornerstones of healthcare,” says Ginsberg.

Scripps Health also stood out for its commitment to working with HealthTrust Clinical Pharmacy Member Support to identify biosimilar conversions and other therapeutic areas that could be improved from a pharmacoeconomic standpoint.

“Medication prior authorization continues to grow in complexity every year,” explains Ginsberg. “The success of Scripps CPA and what we have been able to accomplish in only three years can provide a roadmap for other organizations to follow.”

Innovation Award

Innovation: Louisiana Children’s Medical Center
From left to right: Stephanie Grant, BBA, CMRP; Joseph Thibodeaux, MBA; Clifford (C.T.) Harlan; Alianora Schmidt

Louisiana Children’s Medical Center (LCMC) signed a groundbreaking 15-year agreement in which Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) will be implemented in six regional facilities. The hospital system partnered with Bernhard Pro Star (BPS) for this project which will lead to a total cost savings of $96 million. This can go toward improvements to water and steam systems, and upgrades to air-handling units, building controls and electrical infrastructure, as well as LED lighting installation.

“The EaaS agreement between BPS and LCMC is the largest of its kind in healthcare history,” says Joseph Thibodeaux, MBA, Vice President, Chief Resource Officer. “This agreement will deliver operational efficiencies, enhanced infrastructure, cost savings and have a positive environmental impact. It may serve as a model to other IDNs exploring their own EaaS agreements in the future.”

Although the cost savings from this project are noteworthy, sustainability benefits are at the core of LCMC’s undertaking. The various upgrades will lead to a 21% reduction in electricity consumption, a 34% reduction in natural gas consumption and a 26% reduction in carbon emissions. These energy savings are the equivalent of taking 140,000 cars off the roads in Louisiana.

“This award memorializes the hard work and perseverance of the team over the past year and highlights LCMC’s commitment to the community we serve,” adds Thibodeaux.


This year, HealthTrust added a Challenge Accepted Award to its annual awards program to recognize companies that take bold risks and overcome obstacles in order to put the health of community members first. Ford Motor Company was chosen for the inaugural award based on its dedication to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March 2020, Ford partnered with United Auto Workers to launch Project Apollo, a massive undertaking that helped get PPE to millions of front-line healthcare workers and at-risk communities across the U.S. at no cost. Their initiative got national attention, with well-known director Peter Berg making a short documentary about Ford’s efforts titled “On the Line.”

By the end of August 2021, Ford had produced more than 55 million face masks, 20 million face shields, 1.6 million washable isolation gowns, 50,000 patient ventilators, and 32,000 powered air-purifying respirators (in conjunction with 3M).

Read more about this initiative here.

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