How Rivals Built an ACO

Margaret Dick Tocknell, May 23, 2012

This article appears in the May 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

About three years ago two rival Minnesota health systems—HealthPartners and Allina Health—began exploring how they could combine their resources to accomplish together what they couldn't do alone.

HealthPartners and Allina each own several medical clinics and at least one hospital in the Minneapolis area. HealthPartners also has a commercial health plan.

The two formed Northwest Metro Alliance to focus on achieving the triple-aim of healthcare—better care, better health, and lower cost—for 27,000 high-risk HealthPartners commercial members who live in the northwestern suburbs of Minneapolis and receive their medical care at Allina's Mercy Hospital or at the nine local medical clinics operated by either HealthPartners or Allina.

The ultimate goal is to reduce healthcare costs and improve care by developing and refining services that can be scaled and applied to the 300,000 HealthPartners and Allina customers who live in the alliance service area.

Through Northwest Metro Alliance, the two organizations pool resources, share electronic patient data, mine claims data, and "agree not to duplicate services," explains Penny Wheeler, MD, chief clinical officer at Allina. Clinical, contracting, and executive teams from HealthPartners and Allina meet on a regular basis. One joint project director works across the organizations to align clinical practices. The alliance includes a collective shared savings model with both withholds and incentives. If it bends the medical cost trend below the market rate, then HealthPartners and Allina share in the savings.

Margaret Dick Tocknell Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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