PRESTONSBURG — Highlands Regional Medical Center is joining forces with hospitals in Ashland and Morehead to form a partnership aimed at improving patient access, cutting costs and preparing for health care reform.
Highlands, St. Claire Regional Medical Center, in Morehead, and Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, in Ashland, have formed the “Eastern Kentucky Health Coalition.” Under the pact, each of the three hospitals will remain autonomous, but they will work together in areas such as vendor contracts and coordinated health events.
The three hospitals have a combined 529 patient care beds, with more than 2,800 employees and nearly 500 physicians.
“Between the three facilities that form the coalition, our geographic reach encompasses just shy of 700,000 people,” Highlands CEO Bud Warman said. “That is a lot of people we can reach and a lot of lives we can impact through this partnership. We can do this while making our facilities more attractive to payers as we enter the post-reform world of health care. This coalition strategically aligns us in a way that benefits all three facilities while providing the greatest benefit to the patients of our area.”
As part of the coalition, the hospitals have adopted a mission statement which says the partnership will “develop a clinically-integrated network of health care providers to enhance the health status of our communities in an accountable and responsible manner.”
But a big part of the decision to work together appears to be the impending implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which proponents and opponents alike have dubbed “Obamacare.”
“The Eastern Kentucky Health Coalition will help to ensure each of our organizations is ready for the future under health care reform,” said St. Claire Regional Medical Center President/CEO Mark J. Neff. “This coalition will allow us to form an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) as outlined in the Affordable Care Act.”
An ACO is an assembly of coordinated health providers that come together to provide care for a group of patients and that utilize a payment and care delivery model that ties provider reimbursements to both the quality of care and reductions in the total cost of that care.
“ACOs reduce the overall cost of health care by rewarding quality over quantity,” Neff said.
Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital CEO Kevin Halter said the partnership was a natural fit.
“The three facilities that have come together to form the Eastern Kentucky Health Coalition have much in common,” Halter said. “We are not competitors, but we share similarities in size and the populations we serve. That we would come together to work on ways that we might be able to meet the future needs of patients is vital for the overall health of our region.”