Atlanta hospitals increase collaboration, create joint ventures

More than ever before, hospitals in the metro Atlanta area are joining together in an effort to save money and expand services.

Metro Atlanta hospitals are increasingly creating partnerships with one another, aiming to save money, expand territory and in some cases pump new blood into struggling institutions, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Traditionally, Atlanta has been "a sprawling medical market with many independent-minded players," the AJC reported. But collaborations are increasing, a result of hospitals' struggles: There are fewer paying patients and continuing reductions in government aid programs.

"I think we've entered into an era of affiliations," Kevin Bloye, spokesman for the Georgia Hospital Association, told the AJC. "I think we'll see more of them."

In the past, such efforts usually involved one hospital providing another with a specialty service. But experts told the AJC they anticipate "more expansive" unions. And local hospital officials told the paper the healthcare reform legislation may lead to more partnerships.

Larger facilities generally have more and more modern technology, a boon to smaller hospitals. While these partnerships can lower costs for both parties, they could stifle competition.

Among the most high-profile of these efforts is one between Saint Joseph's Health System and Piedmont Healthcare. In April, they signed a letter of agreement with the intent to enter exclusive negotiations aimed at creating a new partnership entity, a joint operating company.

The AJC report noted other recent collaborations, as well, including: Gwinnett Medical Center breaking ground on a cardiac center that will use surgeons from Atlanta's St. Joseph's Hospital; St. Joseph's agreeing to provide on-site advanced cardiac care at North Fulton Regional Hospital; and Emory University Hospital (pending state approval) providing open-heart procedures for Southern Regional Medical Center.

For more information:
- read this Atlanta Journal-Constitution piece
- check out this press release about the Piedmont/Saint Joseph agreement

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