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Partnering for Better Population Health Management

Rene Letourneau, for HealthLeaders Media, June 2, 2014

Hospital and health system leaders know the reimbursement transformation is coming—even if it hasn't reached them yet—and they are beginning to form alliances with regional providers to find strength in numbers.

This article appears in the May 2014 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

As the healthcare industry moves toward value-based payment models, many provider organizations are realizing that they need a population health management strategy and that going it alone may not be the best path forward. Forming a partnership with other providers allows institutions to share best practices, combine resources, coordinate IT efforts, strengthen supply chain purchasing power, and reduce the overall cost of providing care to their patient population. Here, we look at the approaches of three organizations.

Stratus Healthcare

Four years ago, William T. Richardson, president and CEO of Tift Regional Health System, a Tifton, Ga.–based institution with 346 staffed beds and $287 million in fiscal year 2013 revenues, realized the need for aligning forces with other providers after his organization underwent a health readiness assessment with an outside consultant.

"This was before all the indications that are in place now showing that change is really going to happen this time," Richardson says. "We felt we needed to begin taking steps to prepare for the changes we thought were coming. We didn't have scale or size as a small system in south central Georgia, and we felt that we needed scale."

Richardson started by reaching out to Central Georgia Health System to propose the idea of a partnership, and in July 2013, Stratus Healthcare was formed to create a regional network of likeminded hospitals and health systems.

Stratus now includes 29 hospitals and 15 health systems, Richardson reports.

"I identified those organizations in our region who we thought were like us and invited them to join us in a larger collaboration," he says. "Everyone is looking for a niche to achieve scale and size by combining strengths and financial resources. It's been more successful than I originally anticipated. The organizations that are with us want to remain independent. At the end of the day, we do feel that healthcare is local."

Richardson adds that an important element to establishing a successful partnership is cultural compatibility between organizations.

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