Six health systems form statewide collaborative

Local networks Premier Health, TriHealth part of effort.

Premier Health and TriHealth of Cincinnati are among a half dozen Ohio health systems that have formed a new nonprofit collaborative to reduce costs while delivering quality care to large populations across the state.

The newly formed Midwest Health Collaborative with more than 100,000 employees statewide will be led by a board comprised of the chief executives of the six health networks, which, in addition to Dayton-based Premier and TriHealth, include the Cleveland Clinic; Aultman in Canton; OhioHealth in Columbus; and ProMedica in Toledo.

The collaborative will focus on identifying the most prevalent health issues in individual communities and determining the most efficient and cost-effective ways to address those issues in a standardized way by sharing data analysis, health tracking tools and best practices for managing population health.

“There are a lot of areas that we can work on to improve health and lower costs by just learning how other systems are approaching these things,” said Premier President and CEO Jim Pancoast. “What we’ve been doing over the last probably 10 years is individually talking to each other, and at some point, we just kind of collectively said why don’t we try this together.”

Over the next several years, the collaborative — officially formed Monday — will focus key initiatives in areas of supply chain and cost transformation; identifying tailored and innovative payment models; and creating an actively managed large-scale network, according to a release.

Premier, which became a insurer as well as a health care provider this year with the introduction of its Premier Health Plan, may also leverage the network to expand its presence in the private insurance market.

The collaborative, “won’t immediately impact the local insurance plan,” said Mike Maiberger, ‎senior vice president for Value Based Services at Premier. “But as this matures, and we look for other ways to improve our scale….we’re going to look for ways to leverage our health plan across this geographic part of the state to see how we can best offer both statewide coverage and see if there are opportunities locally.”

While the collaborative will realize some cost advantages due to its sheer size and scale, members didn’t come together primarily to increase their collective purchasing power or share financial risk, according to Pancoast, who’s network includes Atrium Medical Center in Middletown and Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton.

“On the cost side, it’s not so much about aggregating office supplies and things like that,” Pancoast said. “It’s more about reducing (hospital) readmissions, which actually improves health and lowers cost.”

Pancoast was referring to the financial incentives for hospitals to develop strategies to reach out to the populations they serve before they come into their emergency rooms with life-threatening ailments as payments shift from the traditional fee-for-service model to a value-based framework.

Under the health reform law, for example, hospitals are penalized for high readmission rates. And most hospitals must conduct a community health needs assessment and adopt an an implementation strategy at least once every three years or face penalites.

John Prout, president and CEO of TriHealth, which operates Bethesda Butler Hospital in Hamilton, said the collaborative has been in development for the last 15 months.

“We’ve been exploring opportunities to reduce costs, create innovative payment models, and keep care local and independent,” Prout said. “These virtual networks are happening throughout the country.”

Prout said the TriHealth system — like most health networks — has had existing in-house teams working on ways to reduce costs and better coordinate care. The collaborative will “bring highly trained and talented clinicians together to find creative and real solutions to ease access and navigation of care, enhance quality metrics, increase the level and scope of the patient experience, and reduce cost and variation,” he said.

A similar collaborative was formed in 2012 called the Health Innovations of Ohio by Kettering Health; Catholic Health Partners, Mount Carmel Health System, Summa Health System, and University Hospitals.

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