Opelka touts progress, benefits of LSU hospital privatization


The privatization of LSU hospitals is yielding benefits to patients and medical education programs, but there are still “transition issues to work through,” the chief of LSU’s health care redesign said Wednesday.

What the partnerships have accomplished, so far, is “just beyond my imagination,” LSU System Vice President Frank Opelka told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge.

“We have more access to care ... and better opportunities for graduate medical education,” Opelka said. “Efficiencies” from the move have helped the state stretch the limited health care dollars available to treat “the most complex patients in our communities,” he said.

But a key transition has not occurred yet.

Computer systems that keep track of patient appointments, medical records and billings have not yet been transferred to the private partners, Opelka said.

“There’s so much complexity to that. We want to make sure we have dotted i’s and crossed t’s so nobody’s appointment is dropped,” he said.

“So far, because we have kept in the same system, there have been minimal hiccups, amazingly minimal hiccups,” Opelka said. “But as we jump we have to make sure that there is minimal risk to patients.”

Opelka said the state and its private partners are at the very beginning of a journey.

“We are trying to figure out where can we do this better,” Opelka said.

Nine of LSU’s 10 hospitals are involved in partnerships with private hospital firms. Six have moved to private management and operation. Three are being shuttered with health care and medical education relationships moved to the private sector.

Public and private partners are in the initial stages of working on agreements dealing with the collection of “meaningful actionable data” to track and use to improve patient medical outcomes, Opelka said. He called it the “next generation of health care.”

“How do we reflect upon what we do?” Opelka said. “That’s our next step with all our partners. ... How do we pull the data, analyze that data, define where the benchmark is, set the bar to improve.”

“We could not focus on that before because we were focusing on survival,” he said.