University of Kansas launches clinical integration after 3 years' planning--and 6-month delay

A major Kansas academic medical center implemented a long-planned clinical integration process at the beginning of this year, according to the Kansas City Business Journal.

Initially slated for a July launch, the University of Kansas Medical Center was forced to delay full implementation until January 1 due to the complexity of the process, according to the university's Board of Regents. Under the plan, University of Kansas Physicians' (UKP) numerous clinics will constitute a single operation under the banner of University of Kansas Health System, in contrast to the previous system, in which 18 separate clinics operated their own boards, billing systems and foundations.

"It will involve all aspects of healthcare, from easing clinic appointment access to enhancing the inpatient care experience; all organizations on our campus will be aligned in order to provide effective healthcare to patients," KU Hospital CEO Bob Page said in January 2013 when the plan was first announced. "A new clinical enterprise also should make it easier for other hospitals and physicians to connect their patients with the specialty care we provide."

Numerous factors within the healthcare industry drove the transition, including falling revenues for medical schools, declining professional fees and the unsustainability of continuing to subsidize the hospital's academic mission through freestanding practice plans.

The long-term goals of the clinical integration initiative involve:

  • More effective distribution of revenue and resources
  • Ability to remain competitive within the market
  • Alignment of strategic interest by forming one medical center working in a single direction
  • Improved cost management and reduction

Under the integration plan, one physician organization will employ UKP doctors and UKP will financially integrate with the hospital to serve as the central billing office for professional services. Each UKP department will become a business unit within the new entity that will retain a measure of autonomy, according to the article.

As healthcare trends toward consolidation and clinical integration, the American Medical Association and American Hospital Association last summer recommended several principles for leadership integration, including robust information infrastructure and executive-clinical physician integration across the board. Hospital leaders should also establish clearly define performance measures and provide leadership training.

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