Georgia's new 23-hospital collaborative, with its focus on operational initiatives and improving population health, "represents a formidable force with substantial bargaining power" and may be the first stage of something bigger, says one healthcare analyst.
Ninfa Saunders, CEO/president of Central Georgia Health System
Twenty-three hospitals and health systems and about 1,500 physicians in central and south Georgia on Tuesday announced the formation of a clinically integrated non-equity partnership called Stratus Healthcare.
Ninfa Saunders, CEO/president of Macon-based Central Georgia Health System, which along with Tift Regional Health System in Tifton were among the original advocates for Stratus Healthcare, says the initial focus of the collaborative will be to improve population health using best practices, networking, shared services, and coordinating primary and specialty care needs for the region.
"The one thing that is different about this part of Georgia is that every hospital wanted to remain independent," Saunders said in an interview. "So mergers and acquisitions, unlike a lot of areas, were not in the recipe for this area. What was desired was more independence and a focus on local healthcare by local physicians and to develop a collaborative or a strategic partnership that allows us to do as many things as possible in an aligned way to meet the health needs of the population."
Healthcare economist Adam Powell believes Stratus Healthcare has been created as the precursor to something else.
"Although it has been formed as an alliance, the press release announcing its creation mentions that it intends to eventually transform into an LLC. I see this as a merger in the making that may have been announced early for strategic reasons. Given the number of organizations involved, it may have been easiest to accomplish this in stages," Powell wrote in an email exchange with HealthLeaders Media.