Spokane Journal of Business

INHS is true Spokane success story


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Innovation takes vision, leadership, and most of all, courage.  It necessitates trying something new and different, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Spokane has a rich history of fostering such innovation. Twenty years ago, Inland Northwest Health Services (INHS) was formed when our region’s hospitals came together to collaborate around a better way to provide health care services. Today, INHS has capitalized on that foundation.

Empire Health Services (EHS), which owned Deaconess and Valley hospitals at the time, and Providence Services of Eastern Washington, which owned Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital, entertained an audacious idea—combining their struggling air ambulance and rehabilitation services into one. Each organization knew providing these competing services, independently, was inefficient and financially challenging.

Combining these services was bold, innovative and smart business. It eliminated redundancy and financial waste. Equally impressive is that the founders formed INHS because it was simply the right thing to do for the community.

Over the past 20 years, INHS has built on this foundation to improve access to health care services, and in the process, has grown to be one of the region’s largest employers. It has shown incredible innovation, pioneering major technological improvements in how we report and share health information. And most importantly, in collaboration with the region’s health care providers, it has improved the quality of health care.

Today, what started as an effort to combine a couple of service lines has spawned an organization that’s grown into a key economic asset for Spokane.

Northwest MedStar has grown to include six bases across the Northwest. St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute has grown into the region’s largest Level I Trauma Rehabilitation Hospital and provider of outpatient therapy. IRM, the technology division nationally recognized for electronic health information exchange, is providing solutions to customers across the nation.

INHS Community Wellness continues to offer free and low-cost health education, classes and wellness programs for the community and employers. The COHE Community of Eastern Washington has grown from three to 19 counties, connecting injured workers with occupational health best practices to get them back to work.

In the last 20 years, this spirit of innovation and collaboration has grown INHS from a $9.9 million company to a $200 million company. Its employees have grown in number from just over 400 to more than 1,000. INHS has an annual economic impact of $79 million in salaries and benefits on the region, and by expanding its services to other regions it has become a major revenue generator that brings money back into our local economy.

INHS is a true Spokane success story. It’s a locally grown organization that has shown tremendous vision and leadership, building on its founding principle of collaboration, growing to expand its health care service offerings across the region and beyond. It’s drawn national attention from health care leaders and policy makers for its innovation.  As we seek to grow our regional economy, INHS and innovative companies like it will continue to be an important part of how we get there.   

Rich Hadley is president emeritus of Greater Spokane Incorporated.

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