Four Health Systems Launch Regional Alliance
Genesis Health System is among four leading health care organizations in Iowa to form the first regional alliance of its kind to improve health care quality, keep people healthier and proactively respond to changes on the national health care scene.
The new regional alliance, to be called University of Iowa Health Alliance (UIHA), is made up of four entities: Mercy Health Network, based in Des Moines; Genesis Health System, based in Davenport; Mercy-Cedar Rapids; and University of Iowa Health Care, based in Iowa City.
The UIHA alliance will be the largest, broadest integrated network in the state -- composed of more than 50 hospitals, more than 160 physician clinics, more than 2,300 integrated physicians and more than 2,000 aligned physicians in Iowa and contiguous areas.
The historic alliance was announced Thursday in a statewide news conference that illustrated the founding organizations’ commitment to advanced information technology. It was webcast simultaneously at four different locations across Iowa and featured four health care leaders.
Without intention, the news conference occurred within an hour of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding mandatory health insurance -- a major tenet of health care reform and the politically polarizing Affordable Care Act.
Announcing the alliance were: Dave Vellinga, president and CEO of Mercy Health Network; Doug Cropper, president and CEO of Genesis; Tim Charles, president and CEO of Mercy- Cedar Rapids; and, Jean Robillard, M.D., vice president for medical affairs at University of Iowa.
“Genesis Health System is very pleased to be part of this historic day and one of the founding members of this alliance,” said Doug Cropper of Genesis. “Lowering costs and improving quality requires organizations to work together to share best practices, reduce variation, streamline care and, most importantly, improve the health status of populations of patients.
“We’re excited to have so many of Iowa’s hospitals and clinics committed to real improvement in their organizations and their communities.”
Market forces like the escalating cost of health care are driving these changes, and improving quality and lowering costs would be important goals of the UIHA alliance even if the Supreme Court had not ruled as it did, Cropper said.
Regardless of the decision and future implications of the Affordable Care Act, the alliance is committed to improving health care across the state. The hospital executives agreed it was incumbent upon providers to develop new business models and collectively deliver care in a much more cost-effective manner.
“Our commitment as an alliance is to work together to improve access, cost and quality,” Cropper said. “The Supreme Court’s upholding of this legislation really helps address the access piece. However, there’s still a tremendous amount of work to do on the quality and cost side. We’re taking it upon ourselves as health care organizations to respond to the market and work collectively to improve the cost, quality and access of health care in this region.”
To that end, UIHA will create a platform for sharing expertise, selected support services and the information technologies needed to succeed in the emerging “accountable care” systems and payment programs to ultimately reduce costs.
Working together, the alliance aims to improve clinical integration between the members; provide more streamlined and coordinated care to patients; and, ultimately improve the health of people in Iowa and other regions served.
The alliance does not involve a merger of assets or changes in ownership or control. It also is designed to encourage additional health care providers to join.
Changes on the Horizon
Changes in health care and rising health care costs have brought about the need to analyze patient data in new ways; proactively manage the care of groups of patients with chronic diseases; and, streamline care as patients move across all settings. All of this has been shown to reduce variation and errors, improve quality and reduce costs.
In doing this better, alliance members will be able to succeed in emerging payment programs for health care. This includes “shared savings programs” in which the economic success of the health care provider depends on better managing care and keeping people healthier.
“Nobody knew exactly what was going to happen with the Supreme Court decision, and there’s still a lot to be decided in regards to the government aspects of paying for health care,” Cropper said.
“But clearly, the market forces are out there and propelling health care providers to change the way we deliver care. This alliance is responding and working to be proactive. We’re moving forward to take this into our own hands to produce a better health care model for population health.”
Cropper said there are three fundamental challenges with the U.S. health care system -- access, cost and the variability of quality. “The Affordable Care Act mainly addressed issues of access. The challenge we have to work on, and it’s back to the purpose of the UIHA alliance, is health care quality, cost and the patient experience.
“But from an access standpoint, I think personally that it’s a good thing for all Americans to be able to have the ability to receive health care coverage -- either through the government, their employer or to be able to buy it on their own. And the way that really works well is for everybody to participate.”
While there are many details to be worked out, the Supreme Court’s decision takes away some of the uncertainty for providers.
“In any case, Genesis moves forward on our commitment to align our mission ‘to provide compassionate, quality health services to all those in need’ with a business model that is working to help improve the population of those people in the greater Quad City area we serve. That’s our commitment,” Cropper said.
He concluded: “Like never before in my career of 30 years, the business model and the mission will be aligned to really improve the quality of health care. That’s very exciting.”