Partnerships bring urban specialties to suburban hospitals

The financial realities of post-reform healthcare are pushing top-of-the-line medical services once available only in major, big city hospitals into suburbs and smaller communities.

Among examples cited by the Boston Globe: A 30,000-square-foot cancer center in Needham, Massachusetts, provides access to experimental procedures and Harvard-affiliated doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham. Another Beth Israel-affiliated hospital in Milton brought specialists in 16 new fields to a former community hospital.

And amid competition from the growing networks of city hospitals, other community hospitals have expanded emergency departments and opened specialized facilities like Emerson Hospital's Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies, the Globe reported.

It's too soon to know whether the growing number of partnerships between high-profile medical centers and smaller hospitals and clinics will improve outcomes, FierceHealthcare previously reported. But the expansion into suburbs and smaller community comes as academic medical centers face financial pressure from a healthcare system that penalizes hospitals for poor performance. Such high-profile hospitals have been able to charge higher prices in the past, but strain on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements will drive rates down across the board, Becker's Hospital Review reported.

By partnering with community hospitals and other clinics, teaching hospitals can funnel some patients who don't need highly specialized care to lower-cost facilities for treatment, according to the article. At the same time, those facilities can refer patients with complex conditions to the teaching hospitals.

Academic medical centers that create multitiered partnerships that include retails clinics and medical homes along with community hospitals and physician groups will "reap the most value," Igor Belokrinitsky, a partner at PwC Strategy&, told Becker's.

In North Texas, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Resources are combining networks to coordinate patient care and electronic health records at 27 hospitals. Access to Texas Health Resources' 25 hospitals, including 16 acute care facilities, reduces the need for major capital expansion at UT Southwestern, Hospital President Daniel K. Podolsky told the Dallas Morning News.

"What we're seeing is multiple strategies that get at consolidation," Lee Spangler, vice president of medical economics with the Texas Medical Association, told the newspaper.

For more information:
- read the Globe article
- here's the Becker's article
- see the Morning News story