Collaboration is joining consolidation.
Amid a furious spate of mergers and acquisitions between health systems in the past decade, some major hospitals, local clinics and other care centers have started joining forces to expand their geographic and medical reach, attract patients and cut costs.
“As health care becomes more regional, as health care becomes more restrictive with narrow plans, we sought more opportunities to partner with local health care systems to create a dispersed national network of providers,” said Dr. Joseph Cacchione, an interventional cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic who also helps oversee the clinic’s National Network of partner health centers.
These types of relationships offer a host of advantages. For one, “There’s a lot of cross-fertilization across the network, and a lot of people are taking advantage of each other’s expertise,” Cacchione said.
These partnerships also don’t restrict access to care, said David Notari, CEO of Innovation Health, also known as Inova, a health care system that teamed with the major insurer Aetna in 2012.
“My product that I have is a broad national network,” Notari said. “I actually had my knees replaced a year and a half ago up in Philadelphia. … I was following the doctor who had the best outcomes. That’s where I wanted to go.”
To avoid diluting the Cleveland Clinic’s brand, “we built a process to put hospitals through an exhaustive process, looking at their quality and also understanding the culture of these organizations and do they match,” Cacchione said. “We’ve transitioned to doing cultural assessments of these programs before bringing them on.”
Cleveland Clinic, he added, has actually “divorced three hospitals” it found did not make a good match.
“You cannot buy the brand,” Cacchione said. If it were that easy, he added, “our sales team could not sell that to an employer” considering joining the Cleveland program.
“Partnering is the way to go. It’s definitely the most cost effective and the most efficient going forward,” Notari said. “Don’t be afraid to be different in the marketplace and challenge the status quo.”