As many rural hospitals struggle to provide the care and treatments patients need, OSF Healthcare and SSM Health have formed a partnership that will increase accessibility to patients in Illinois.
OSF Saint Anthony's Health Center is in Alton, Illinois and is the furthest south of 15 hospitals in the nonprofit, Catholic health system, OSF HealthCare. To get to its flagship facility, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, it would take a two-and-a-half-hour, 160-mile drive.
To bring patients specialty care and treatments they wouldn't readily have access to, Saint Anthony's began looking at other Catholic health systems in their market whose values and mission aligned with theirs. Two years ago, OSF Healthcare began discussing a possible partnership with SSM Health, a nonprofit, Catholic health system headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.
Through the systems' new strategic affiliation, Saint Anthony's patients will now have access to SSM Health, increasing accessibility to the network of specialty and subspecialty physicians.
"The principle of this relationship is to bring services to our community that we're unable to support in a community hospital, and then create an integrated network of referrals," Saint Anthony's president, Jerry Rumph, recently told HealthLeaders.
The collaboration will help St. Anthony's build depth when it comes to physician specialties, Rumphs said, which will enable the organization to bring specialists and physicians to their campus to provide services they wouldn't normally have access to provide to their patients.
"The second element is to create an aligned network of subspecialists that we can refer to, and part of that is for continuity of care," he continued.
As both systems work together, patients will be able to move back and forth between St. Anthony's and SSM Health's facilities in St. Louis, sharing medical records to coordinate care, diagnostics, and follow-up appointments. There are also plans to incorporate telemedicine services so that patients don't have to travel.
The first collaboration will see Sridhar Kumar, MD, a cardiologist at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, step into the role of chief of cardiology at Saint Anthony's. Where Saint Anthony's was previously only able to offer basic cardiology services, Dr. Kumar will expand their services to include a wide range of cardiac interventions, treatments, and testing, giving patients access to care and treatment that they would have had to find elsewhere.
Partnerships like this would serve as a great template for other rural or small community hospitals, Rumphs said.
"Especially in the remote areas, that would be very beneficial for patients because a lot of families, if they do go see a specialist in a large community, they have to travel just to a doctor's appointments," he said. "I can see this being a real opportunity to provide this level of care to people in smaller communities."
Editor's note: This story was updated on May 5, 2022.
“The principle of this relationship is to bring services to our community that we're unable to support in a community hospital, and then create an integrated network of referrals," St. Anthony's president, Jerry Rumphs, recently told HealthLeaders.”
Jerry Rumphs, president, Saint Anthony's Health Center
Through its "strategic affiliation with with SSM, Saint Anthony's patients will now have access to specialty care they would previoiusly have had to travel two hours for.
The systems will work in tandem sharing medical records to coordinate care and treatment for patients.
Collaborations like this can benefit smaller and remote communities that don't have immediate access to specialists.