Hospital systems share resources, save millions

A regional collaborative between two large healthcare systems in Florida is showing early signs of success with both organizations leveraging their joint buying power, saving millions while providing better patient care, according to an article in The American Journal of Accountable Care.

University of Florida and Shands Teaching Hospital in Gainesville partnered with Orlando Health in 2010 to provide access of care to more than three million residents in Florida. The two organizations collaborate in four major areas--clinical integration, data analytics, contracting and operations. The systems first pursued clinical opportunities and turned their attention to other projects in its second phase, according to an announcement.

The two-phase approach helped both organizations achieve efficiencies and cost savings, according to Kavita Patel, M.D., of the Brookings Institution, and her co-authors, who examined the clinical and health services the two organizations jointly developed over the past 12 months in order to offer high-quality clinical care at the lowest possible cost.

The collaboration demanded that each organization trust one another and be honest about their own strengths and weaknesses, according to Patel. 

"An expressed intent of these programs is the transparent sharing of data to critically evaluate which system has the best program in order to learn from each other and not duplicate costly services in which regional volumes are low," she wrote.

Since they partnered, the two systems created several joint clinical programs. They include teleconferences for heart failure patients requiring ventricular assist devices or transplant; staffing of pediatric orthopedics at University of Florida by Orlando Health physicians; and a proposal for a joint personalized cancer care program and non-clinical activities. Those activities consist of joint supply purchasing decisions, combining reference laboratories and evaluation of common IT analytic systems.

The collaborative has seen immediate benefits in purchasing savings as well. "Early results of supply chain analysis indicate millions in savings for both organizations," the article states.

Organizations considering taking an accountable care approach could learn from the collaboration taken by the two health systems, Patel wrote. A regional collaborative can serve as a meaningful interim step to an accountable care organization, she said.

"We believe that the innovative approach taken by the University of Florida and Shands and Orlando Health has produced not only short-term benefits for both organizations, but also a viable path for transitioning to a more accountable payment and delivery model through a formal ACO contract in the future," she wrote.

To learn more:
- here's the article
- read the announcement