A Quarter-Century of Change

By Dennis Boone

If there’s one thing you can say about health care in the Kansas City region, it’s that change is constant—and growth is always the driver.

That’s been the case over the past 25 years, especially, since the first Special Medical Edition produced by Ingram’s rolled off the presses. Billions of dollars have gone into expansion, rehabilitation and new construction at area hospitals and medical centers. 

And that has changed the face of health care here.

Among the biggest of the seismic shifts:

• None was bigger than the Houdini act The University of Kansas Hospital pulled in 1998 to escape state control. Formerly under the wing of its namesake in higher education, it became a stand-alone public health authority with just 30 days of working capital on its first day. Today, it’s the region’s largest single care facility, with nearly $10 billion in revenue.

• For-profit HCA, one of the nation’s biggest providers, swept into this market to buy the foundering Health Midwest system in 2002, then poured hundreds of millions into facility improvements, and added Centerpoint Regional Medical Center to the mix in 2006. The purchase also created two major health-focused foundations: What is now Health Forward Foundation, and the Reach Foundation, with combined assets of more than $900 million. The entity was branded HCA Midwest Health.

• Four of the region’s 15 biggest hospitals from 1997 are no more; Independence Regional Health was razed and the Medical Center of Independence became an asset of the school district there when Centerpoint rose from the ground. Trinity Lutheran and Baptist Medical Center became part of the HCA system, with the latter now operating as the Brookside Campus for Research Medical Center.

Saint Luke’s Health System opened its Johnson County campus in 1998 and, less than a decade later, expanded its footprint into Lee’s Summit with a new medical center in 2006.

• One-time community hospitals in Johnson County became booming medical centers with the growth of Olathe Health, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission and Menorah Medical Center, the HCA operation that moved out of what today is the Stowers Institute for Medical Research near the Plaza.

Those are just a few of the major moves that have redefined medical care in the Kansas City area in the past quarter century. Virtually every other hospital, large and small, has joined the growth wave with both facility and program expansion, broadening the delivery of care and striving to meet potential clients where they are. [See related feature: Ingram’s Historical Perspectives on Health Care, Page 40]

Health care as a field, however, isn’t just hands-on healing provided by doctors and nurses. It encompasses all manner of ancillary business sectors, some tied directly to patients as consumers, some more with connections that are easier to overlook.

There are insurance companies and brokerages; there are law firms with massive health-care law practices and niche firms specializing in that field; the same goes for construction companies that have either an organizational focus on health-care facilities or large operating units with such projects at their core.

And Ingram’s has been there throughout to highlight those connections with our annual Industry Outlook series on health care itself, and on insurance, construction and legal affairs. Those roundtables bring together thought leaders from across each sector—often, from companies that are competing head-to-head for business. But whose executives see the value of sitting down with colleagues for discussions that can benefit the broader business community by helping owners understand how industry trends might affect their own operations.

In addition, on a quarterly basis, Ingram’s is researching and updating industry trends with feature coverage and our health-care related lists of the region’s largest hospitals, private companies in the health-care space, health insurers, related sectors in assisted living, home health care and senior living.

And with recognition of individual and organizational excellence as one other element of the magazine’s editorial mission, we’re profiling the leadership of key healthcare organizations with features like the Ingram’s 250 that explores the most influential leaders among regional companies, Heroes in Healthcare, Top Doctors, 40 Under Forty and others.

Like health care itself, it’s an editorial mission that has evolved over 25 years to address the content concerns of health care from both an insider’s perspective and that of business executives trying to fit employee health and benefits into their own operating models.