Wisconsin hospital partnership coordinates efforts to improve care

A year after six Wisconsin health systems partnered on an initiative to share best practices and improve care quality, the program has added two members and reaped the benefits of diverse experts and strengths, according to WKBT.

Last August, UW Health, Gundersen Health System, Aspirus System, Aurora Health Care, ThedaCare and Bellin Health Care Systems formed AboutHealth. Since then, Marshfield Clinic Health System and ProHealth Care have joined the partnership. Combined, the partners provide care access for 94 percent of the state's population.

The number of systems involved means each participant can learn from the others' strengths, Mark Platt, Gundersen's senior vice president of business services, told WKBT. For example, Platt said, ThedaCare leads in care metrics for its diabetic population. "Rather than saying our patients are sicker or something, we said teach us about that," said Gundersen CEO Jeff Thompson. Gundersen, meanwhile, occupies a similar position on breast health, allowing them to both teach and learn within the partnership.

The arrangement is a partnership rather than a merger, allowing every member to retain its autonomy and assets, and maintain an equal say. Such "non-merger mergers" have spiked since the Affordable Care Act, with "strategic alliances" overtaking standard mergers in popularity, FierceHealthFinance previously reported. These partnerships are subject to less regulatory scrutiny, making them more attractive to many providers.

By pooling its revenue, AboutHealth has a combined $12 billion and has cut supply costs, according to the article. Multiple chief information officers working toward the same goal has also helped the participants coordinate efforts on services such as electronic health records. While the partnership board meets about every two months, individual division committees can meet as often as weekly, according to the article.

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