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SSM Health Care is a Catholic, not-for-profit United States health care system with a reputation to use quality measures to improve care. More than 1,300 physicians and 29,500 others employees in four states are employed by SSM. SSM is one of the largest employers in the cities it serves. States that SSM services include Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Illinois and Missouri.
SSM adopted the electronic health record fairly early, and provides care in a range settings, including hospitals, pediatric medical centers, outpatient centers, clinics, surgery centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, physician offices, emergency centers, rehabilitation facilities, home care, and hospice.
Based in St. Louis, Mo., SSM Health Care owns 18 hospitals, and has affiliations with more than 40 rural hospitals. SSM also owns two nursing homes, and has a variety of partnerships with physicians.
In September 2013, Dean Health System, a large multi-specialty physician group and health plan, finalized a deal to merge Dean and its subsidiaries, including Dean Health Plan, into SSM Health Care. The merger became effective on September 1 after all necessary regulatory approvals were received.
SSM Health Care traces its roots to 1872, when Mother Mary Odilia Berger and four other sisters came to St. Louis from Germany, after caring for sick and wounded soldiers during the Franco-Prussian War. Facing religious persecution in Germany, they came to the United States. When they arrived in St. Louis they began providing nursing care to people in their own homes. That winter, when a smallpox epidemic hit St. Louis, the sisters cared for the sick and dying. For a short time, people referred to them as the Smallpox Sisters. In 1874, the congregation received its formal name: the Sisters of St. Mary (SSM).
Five years after their arrival in St. Louis, the sisters borrowed $16,000, to open their first hospital, St. Mary’s Infirmary. Almost 60 percent of their patients were unable to pay for their health care services. Account ledgers from this time identify those who were unable to pay for their services as an “ODL,” a designation that stood for “Our Dear Lord’s.” During this time, the sisters relied on God to provide for their needs as they cared for the poor.
Most of the health care facilities that today belong to SSM Health Care were previously part of a group of hospitals owned by the Sisters of St. Mary and centrally governed, but not centrally managed. In the mid-1980s, the sponsoring congregation decided to reorganize its hospitals into a system of centrally managed health care providers, and SSM Health Care was created in 1986. Today the system is managed by a team of professionals—both lay and religious—and governed by members of the sponsoring congregation as well as by laypersons from the communities served by its facilities.
In 2002, SSM Health Care became the first health care organization in history to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the highest award for quality in the U.S.