I have not been able to talk to hospital officials who can elaborate on this, but Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Baptist Health, St. Bernards Healthcare, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
and Washington Regional Medical System
announced today that they have formed a "shared services organization," named The Partnership for a Healthy Arkansas.
The hospitals said the partnership is not a merger but a way to create "opportunities to achieve cost savings and performance improvement in three main areas – Operational Shared Services, Population Health Shared Services and Clinical Improvement Shared Services." The announcement gave as examples of potential collaborations "information technology, customer call centers, patient care management and coordination, expensive bio-medical equipment maintenance, and quality and financial data analysis."
Shared services organizations are created to reduce redundancies in equipment, staffing and purchased services. The press release said the shared services would lower health care costs for hospitals and patients. "UAMS and Baptist Health already are working together to reduce duplication in two clinical areas: vascular surgery and inpatient rehabilitation," the press release stated.
UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn
sent a letter to UAMS employees today stressing that the partnership, an LLC, is not a merger. "
We will all continue to operate independently while working together to evaluate opportunities to achieve cost savings and performance improvement in three main areas — operational shared services, population health shared services and clinical improvement shared services.
The press release is on the jump.
UPDATE: Dr. Roxane Townsend,
vice chancellor of clinical programs for UAMS and the Medical Center CEO, said the LLC would, for example, be able to bid for contracts for all of the hospitals — say to consolidate the call centers or in records technology — that would help spread fixed costs "over a larger base." Including insurer Blue Cross would offer "a unique opportunity to provide care across the continuum," by developing networks of health care providers and helping manage costs.
The idea is not just to save money — though that is primary — but to improve health care, Townsend said. "I think the fact that the five entities have been able to sit in a room and develop relationships and trust is a win up front that means a lot for the citizens of Arkansas and [will] do what is going to be best for health of Arkansans." She also said founders have not "put a number" to how much they hope to save.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Baptist Health, St. Bernards Healthcare, The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and Washington Regional Medical System today announced the formation of The Partnership for a Healthy Arkansas, a Shared Services Organization.
According to its founding members, this innovative collaboration will bring together the five organizations to implement programs that improve health care quality and lower health care costs for patients and providers throughout Arkansas. The five participants in the new venture said that the new organization will not include a merger among any of the founding organizations.
“Our organizations share a common commitment to deliver the best healthcare and health value to Arkansas citizens,” said Washington Regional Medical System president and chief executive officer Bill Bradley, who was elected chairman of the new organization. “Because all members of this collaboration are headquartered in Arkansas and we are all rooted in a not-for-profit mission, we share a synergy and a focus on improving the financing and delivery of healthcare to Arkansans, resulting in better healthcare for all.”
Shared Services Organizations are becoming a preferred way for health systems across the country to lower costs and improve performance while remaining independent and community focused. Having Arkansas Blue Cross participate in this effort is unique among such organizations nationwide.
Chris Barber, president and chief executive officer of St. Bernards Healthcare in Jonesboro was elected vice chairman of the new organization. According to Mr. Barber, “Following extensive discussions on how best to improve health care for Arkansans, these organizations came to the conclusion that collaboration on innovativehealth improvement and efficiency initiatives across the state was the right approach. We retain our focus on our communities’ needs and learn best practices from each other.”
The Partnership for a Healthy Arkansas is evaluating opportunities to achieve cost savings and performance improvement in three main areas – Operational Shared Services, Population Health Shared Services and Clinical Improvement Shared Services.
Troy Wells, Baptist Health president and chief executive officer, the secretary/treasurer of The Partnership for a Healthy Arkansas, explained, “Specific programs in these three areas will reduce duplication, share the cost of expensive operations and improve our performance for the benefit of patients and insurance plan members. To be successful, we will engage our affiliated physicians as leaders and partners in many initiatives.”
Examples of potential collaborative efforts include information technology, customer call centers, patient care management and coordination, expensive bio-medical equipment maintenance, and quality and financial data analysis.
The collaborative will facilitate cooperation between the health systems and Arkansas Blue Cross to provide the best care at the lowest cost for the state’s most financially vulnerable individuals as well as those residents who receive employer-sponsored coverage whether self-funded or fully insured.
“Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and these four leading health systems have a common goal of ensuring Arkansas’ residents receive high quality, efficient care under new and innovative payment arrangements and insurance products,” said Mark White, president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Blue Cross. “ Our collective efforts will ultimately improve the health of Arkansans by working in concert with our health system and physician partners,” he said.
"We are fortunate in Arkansas that the leading health systems and the state’s largest health insurer have a truly collaborative relationship and shared goals,” said Roxane Townsend, M.D., vice chancellor of clinical programs for UAMS and chief executive officer of UAMS Medical Center.
UAMS and Baptist Health already are working together to reduce duplication in two clinical areas: vascular surgery and inpatient rehabilitation. More areas of clinical cooperation are under consideration. In addition, UAMS collaborates with St. Bernards and Washington Regional through its regional programs, partnering on family medicine residency training, telemedicine and a variety of clinical programs including family medicine, geriatrics and high-risk pregnancy.
“UAMS is a valuable state asset and serves all Arkansans with services in all parts of the state,” said Dan Rahn, M.D., chancellor of UAMS, the state’s academic health sciences center. “Because Arkansas ranks 49th in overall health outcomes among the 50 states, we face a collective challenge and responsibility to address high percentages of smoking, poverty, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Cooperation to maximize resources and improve access to care is the key to improving the health of our citizens, and has a direct impact on employers and our entire economy.”