COEUR d'ALENE - Laughter is the best medicine, and no one knows that better than those who attended the ninth annual North Idaho Health Care Symposium this weekend.
More than 140 physicians, administrators and board members from 12 hospitals across North Idaho gathered at The Coeur d'Alene Resort for two days of networking, learning and building relationships with the goal of expanding and improving health care for their patients.
And their funny bones may have been tickled during the opening presentation Friday evening.
"We found a physician comedian, and thought it would be best to have it be a light, social event and enjoy each others' company," Kootenai Health CEO Jon Ness said with a smile Friday afternoon. "He did call in advance and ask for background information about key people."
Kootenai Health hosted the symposium, which began with keynote speaker and comedian Dr. Brad Nieder of Denver. His program, "Laughter is the Best Medicine," provided an entertaining and inspiring introduction to the event.
The symposium, Ness said, was held to bring together all the not-for-profit and community hospitals in North Idaho and open lines of communication about areas of interest while encouraging collaboration.
"We think it's unique that all the hospitals in North Idaho will come together every year to have a dialogue about how we can better work together," Ness said. "There are parts of the country where hospitals don't do that. We try to set our local community aside and look at it from a regional perspective and say, 'Well, how can we work together to share resources, share ideas and help each other in supporting better patient care?"
Saturday morning's keynote speaker was Dr. David Hayes of Rochester, Minn. Hayes has an impressive resume with extensive experience in health care and is the medical director of the Mayo Clinic Care Network.
"We're just thrilled that he's here and took time out of his very busy schedule to join us," Ness said. "I know that all the hospitals and all the leadership in those hospitals were really looking forward to his presentation."
Hayes spoke to symposium attendees about where the Mayo Clinic is now in regards to the current landscape of health care as well as describing the care network and its local capabilities. Kootenai Health has been a part of the Mayo Clinic Care Network for six months.
"It's been great," Hayes said. "We have several individuals who specifically work with Kootenai, so they're here on an intermittent basis for different projects or different initiatives, but from our standpoint it's just been spectacular, and it was important for us to have a high-quality group in the Northwest."
The regional health care symposium provided opportunities for those in the health care field to share ideas, challenges and experiences while forming relationships that will in turn positively affect patients in the community.
Casey Meza, Kootenai Health's executive director of affiliated health services, emphasized how health care professionals working together in the region will produce the best results.
"I think people are tired of competition in health care," Meza said. "I think they want to know we're all working together to care for them. We all strive to keep patients close to home. That doesn't mean (just) Coeur d'Alene, that means Coeur d'Alene, Grangeville, Cottonwood, wherever they live and want to receive their health care. We want to make sure everyone has the resources that are appropriate to be able to deliver that service as close to their home as they can possibly be, because that's where they're going to get the best outcomes."