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Regional medical facilities join to create new health network

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Two key health care providers are partnering to provide high-quality, affordable health care to residents of south-central Indiana.

Columbus Regional Health and Schneck Medical Center in Seymour announced Friday that they are forming inSPIRE Health Partners, a clinically integrated network.

The collaboration, which also includes local physicians and other health care providers, is a way for the two hospitals to continue to make investments to benefit their communities, while improving the health care experience for patients, said Jim Bickel, CEO with Columbus Regional Health.

Gary A. Meyer, CEO with Schneck Medical Center, said inSPIRE is not a merger of the two community-based, non-profit hospitals, but an expansion of past partnerships between the two.

No new physical presence is created, but rather the collaboration integrates the hospitals’ electronic patient records, sets the same measures of care for both and offers all their resources to patients to ensure quality care.

The network is in the early stages of development and will be put in place this year to begin providing services to its members in 2015, Meyer said.

Columbus Regional, Schneck and SIHO Insurance Services will be the first members of the network, but other companies and organizations with self-funded health care plans may join them, Bickel said.

Insurance providers also might eventually want to offer the network to their customers, the hospital chiefs said.

Partners working together

Bickel said inSPIRE is different from some other clinically integrated networks because employers have been involved in putting it together.

“We know they are frustrated with health care costs,” he said.

“It’s a huge expense for employers. We really want to take the approach that they see us as partners to help them manage their health care spending as well as improving quality and patient experience.”

The network didn’t come about because of the new health care law, formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, although certain facets of the law played into the equation, including the burden of health care costs being placed on the community, Bickel said.

The network is really more about doing the right thing for patients without increasing costs, Bickel said.

Doug Leonard, president of the Indiana Hospitals Association, said the collaboration appears to be an attempt by Columbus Regional and Schneck to tackle one of the potential shifts in health care created by the Affordable Care Act.

He said that shift involves the model in which providers are paid.

In the past, health care providers were paid on a fee for service model, which rewards volume of services provided to patients, Leonard said.

The Affordable Care Act is pushing for models that reward providers for not duplicating tests and eliminating unnecessary procedures and services, said Leonard, a former president and CEO of Columbus Regional.

He said a lot of other providers around the state and country are looking at establishing similar networks for the same reasons.

Leonard said he commends Columbus Regional and Schneck for collaborating, especially since they could be viewed as competitors.

“They’re not large enough to tackle this model on their own,” he said.

Working together, however, gives both hospitals a better chance to see if the model works, Leonard said.

Integrating systems

One of the first steps in establishing the network is making sure software systems at the hospitals are compatible with each other so patient information can be shared, Dr. Michael Dorenbusch said. That’s one of the biggest challenges of getting inSPIRE up and running, he said.

The Columbus surgeon said the ability to share information eliminates unnecessary duplication of services. Improved sharing of information among hospitals and physicians in both communities will allow patients to move through the system better and help keep them on track for treatment of their health issues, Dorenbusch said.

Increased coordination also will help patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes or congestive heart failure become more educated on their conditions and more capable of participating in the management of their diseases, Bickel said.

“Care will be patient-centered, focusing on engagement, satisfaction and shared accountability for health outcomes,” Bickel said.

Navigators already in place in Seymour and Columbus presently help patients move through the system and will continue to a play key role in making sure patients follow up on appointments, testing and treatment, Dorenbush said.

Bickel said the network’s goal is a more seamless approach for patients to improve their experience while providing qualify, cost-efficient care through better coordination of services.

Measuring patient treatment

Dr. Eric Fish, a Seymour obstetrician and gynecologist, said one of the early steps for doctors will be establishing measures to determine outcomes for patient quality of care.

Fish, chairman of the inSPIRE Board of Managers, said the physician-driven network will benefit patients through better outcomes and will increase convenience by streamlining patient forms and records.

Fish said while employees of the firms inside the network will be the first to benefit from it, inSPIRE will even benefit patients who use the collaborative services out of network.

Bickel said a consultant who has successfully put together networks in the past has been brought in to help since discussions about inSPIRE began about six months ago.

Organizers also have looked at other networks during the planning process, Bickel said. Those networks don’t all have the same look, but have the same general purpose, Meyer said.

“These collaborations are about doing what’s right for the community and the patient,” he said.

Meyer said Schneck and Columbus Regional have collaborated previously.

One such collaborative effort involves a program to transport a patient with heart problems to the catheterization lab at Columbus Regional within 50 minutes to better their changes of survival.

“There are a lot more things we want to do in the future,” he said.

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