Independent hospitals form alliances

Alliances between independent hospitals may be a trend to watch in 2014, Georgia Health News reports.

For example, since its formation last summer, Georgia's Stratus Healthcare has grown from 23 hospitals to 29, many of them smaller facilities in rural areas. Member hospitals conduct monthly meetings to compare notes on information technology, clinical services and how to manage the community's health, Ninfa Saunders, president and CEO of Macon's Central Georgia Health System, told GHN.

Stratus members may eventually evolve from loose alliances to joint ventures or joint operating agreements, Saunders told GHN. "Hospitals want to remain independent," she said, "[but] how long independence is sustainable, I can't speak to."

In Nebraska, a similar effort is underway, as Lincoln's Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center recently joined the UniNet Healthcare Network, an alliance of hospitals concentrated primarily in the Omaha area. Similarly, Bryan Health, also in Lincoln, joined with eight other independent hospitals throughout the state to form the Regional Provider Network, according to the Columbus Telegram.

The Regional Provider Network was formed in response to shifts in the healthcare industry, not because of UniNet, according to Russ Gronewold, Bryan's chief financial officer.

"Our driving force is where we think the market's going, not where we think our competition is going," he told the Telegram.

The Fremont Area Medical Center (FAMC), another founding member of the Regional Provider Network, joined to share resources while preserving its own autonomy, FAMC President and CEO Pat Booth told the Fremont Tribune.

"Our mission is improving the health of the community. We think healthcare is still local," he said. "Even though it's good to get together with other people to cut costs, it still comes down to a doctor and a nurse and a patient."

More unconventional alliances are also forming in response to individual community needs. For example, a Memphis, Tenn. alliance between hospitals and faith groups has reduced member hospital mortality rates, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the GHN article
- here's the Telegram article
- check out the Tribune article