A Different Spin on ‘Late Night’ at KU Health System

Yes, it started just after midnight, and “KU” was part of the host institution’s title, but this celebration had nothing to do with college basketball: At 12:01 a.m. today, the University of Kansas Health System celebrated 20 years–to the minute–its birth as a public health authority.

The $23 million check presented to hospital executives on Oct. 1, 1998, by their institution’s namesake, the University of Kansas, sealed the deal that separated the struggling medical center from state control. It was, as executives noted at this morning’s festivities, the beginning of an unprecedented turnaround that has transformed a single hospital into a statewide health system.

Up to that point, low levels of care and patient satisfaction, along with financial difficulties, had prompted many in state government to question whether the hospital could even continue to operate. Today, though, the success metrics from creating that stand-alone authority are irrefutable:

  • The hospital had 206 patients on Oct 1, 1998. As of last Wednesday, the daily count stood at 726, an increase of more than 250 percent.
  • The hospital that had 407 beds in 1998 is now a health system with 910 licensed beds.
  • The hospital that logged 2,086 emergency-room visits in October 1998 has more than doubled that impact, treating 5,337 cases in August 2018.

Overall success, say CEO Bob Page and Kansas City President Tammy Peterman, has come from a relentless focus on achieving a higher standard for quality, patient satisfaction, safety and outcomes. As a result, the medical center has earned numerous recognitions, including as the best hospital in the city and state and among the top 1 percent of hospitals in the nation. And it has done that with no state or local funding over the past 20 years.