Kentucky Innovations in Health Care

Kentucky has long established itself as a center of health-care innovation. The Bluegrass State’s hospitals have invested in leading-edge technology and attracted the expertise of top-level providers.

Bill Lewis
On Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 10:09

On Christmas Day in 1809, Dr. Ephraim McDowell performed the first successful abdominal surgery in the world. His name and standards of excellence still stand in Danville, Ky., at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center.

Kentucky Hospital Association

Kentuckians have access to superb health care throughout the state. In addition to numerous clinics and medical facilities, 81 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have a hospital, half of them in rural areas. In many communities the hospital is the largest private employer. Each hospital is a member of the Kentucky Hospital Association. As an advocacy arm, KHA represents member interests in Washington, D.C., and at the state capitol in Frankfort. The organization also provides education to its members, from quality initiatives to working on trauma designations. 

"Kentucky's 131 hospitals continue to provide an important safety net for health services and programs at a time when economic turmoil and reform of our country's health-care system are affecting all aspects of our society," says Michael Rust, KHA president.

Economic Impact

The value of community benefit programs and services provided by Kentucky hospitals was nearly $1.67 billion in 2010 (the most recent year for statistics), up from $1.48 billion the previous year. The total includes $274 million in financial assistance and charity care, a 23 percent increase from 2009. Kentucky hospitals are responsible for generating approximately $3.9 billion in local economic activity from purchases made by the hospitals and their employees. 

Owensboro Health

In January 2013 Owensboro Medical Health System became Owensboro Health. The not-for-profit hospital serves 11 counties in western Kentucky and southern Indiana. Owensboro Health treats 18,000 surgical patients annually and delivers 1,800 babies each year. Owensboro Health has a cancer center, and offers nationally recognized orthopedic and heart care services, gastrointestinal care, women’s health services and neuroscience and stroke services.

Top Awards

In 2012 Truven Health Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters) recognized the Owensboro facility on its list of 100 Top Hospitals in the category of large community hospitals. The only other Kentucky hospital on the list was Harlan Appalachian Regional Healthcare Hospital in eastern Kentucky, in the “small community hospitals” category.

KentuckyOne Health

In January 2012 KentuckyOne Health was formed with the merger of Louisville’s Jewish Hospital and St. Marys HealthCare, plus the nine facilities of Saint Joseph Health System, including Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington. KentuckyOne Health is the largest health-care system in Kentucky, with almost 14,000 employees. In November 2012, the University of Louisville and its University Medical Center announced a partnership with the nonprofit system, which involves a KentuckyOne investment of $543.5 million in the medical center during the first five years.

Children’s Hospitals

Kentucky Children's Hospital in Lexington is part of UK HealthCare. In July 2010 it opened the Makenna David Pediatric Emergency Center, with its own entrance for children and their families. It was the first pediatric Level I Trauma Center in the state, as certified by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma. Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, part of Norton Healthcare, is the state’s only free-standing pediatric care facility for children. Supported by the Children’s Hospital Foundation, Kosair serves as the primary pediatric teaching facility for the University of Louisville School of Medicine.


Bill Lewis is an award-winning business journalist whose work has appeared in publications across the United States.