Grand Junction, Colo.,
13:25 PM

Strategy expert: Let's focus on keeping people healthy

Intermountain Health leader addresses Grand Junction symposium attendees

GJ Health Symposium


As the pace of innovation in healthcare increases, leaders must prioritize ways to move from a “sick care” system to focus on keeping people well.  

That was the message from Dave Dirks, the keynote speaker at Innovation, The Future of Healthcare Symposium 2023 sponsored by The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, Rocky Mountain Health Foundation and St. Mary’s Medical Center, a part of Intermountain Health. 

More than 100 participants heard from speakers on topics ranging from healthcare quality and access to primary care to childhood obesity and mental health care. At the end of the day, votes were cast to identify the top goals the community will work to achieve by 2029.  

Dirks knows something about setting goals and strategizing to achieve them. He is the Intermountain Health vice president of strategy and responsible for leading the development and execution of the health system’s key strategic initiatives. During his tenure, he has created and launched new companies that focus on providing drugs to patients at a lower cost and bringing physicians together to work toward a value-based compensation model.  

Value-based care popped up in many discussions throughout the symposium. 

Several speakers talked about the existing fee for service care model in America and its focus on treating the sick rather than helping people stay healthy.  

Dirks said he saw problems with this model early in his career as a hospital system financial analyst. A team of clinicians developed a protocol that would shorten the time a baby stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit. “The babies could go home earlier,” he said. While that would be great for the families, Dirks said it hurt the finances of the department.  

“In the current fee for service model, healthcare systems rely on a steady flow of very sick people to stay financially viable,” he said. Instead, he suggested healthcare systems need to build tools and capabilities to keep people well. 

Dirks described how Intermountain Health began working toward value-based systems of care with an emphasis on putting the patient at the center. Innovations around value-based care have ranged from the creation of Select Health insurance network in Utah to Monument Health’s clinically integrated network in Western Colorado. Ultimately a successful move from fee for service to value-based care will involve many partners including providers, payers, consumers, and policy makers.  

At the end of the day, attendees selected their top goals. By 2029 in Mesa County, the team commits to: 

  1. Decrease mental health crisis-related incarcerations and emergency room visits by shifting patients into appropriate treatment locations, such as West Springs Hospital 
  2. Transition hospital services from fee-for-service to value-based care 
  3. Increase primary care utilization meaningfully 
  4. Lower food insecurity rate among youth 

For more information about the Healthcare Symposium and the community initiatives, visit


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