23 Georgia hospitals form alliance, including several in midstate

lmorris@macon.comJuly 23, 2013 

An alliance of 23 hospitals in south and Middle Georgia, including Central Georgia Health System in Macon, have formed Stratus Healthcare to share resources, information and manage patient health care.

The announcement was made Tuesday at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro by leaders from some of the participating hospitals, including Dr. Ninfa Saunders, president and CEO of Central Georgia Health System and The Medical Center of Central Georgia.

The health care alliance, which includes more than 1,500 physicians, bills itself as the largest one in the Southeast.

“I think the key for us is this: The Medical Center, as one of the largest employers and the only teaching hospital in this part of the region, is taking this very seriously and taking the lead in this partnership so we can improve the health of the region, not just the community we are in,” Saunders said.

Other midstate partners in the alliance include Houston Healthcare, which has hospitals in Warner Robins and Perry; Oconee Regional Medical Center in Milledgeville; Putnam General Hospital in Eatonton and Taylor Regional Hospital in Hawkinsville.

While each hospital in the alliance will remain independent, the objectives of the group include exchanging best practices, sharing resources, developing coordinated information systems and reducing costs.

Currently if a patient goes to a hospital, “they may do a set of tests for you, and you go to another hospital, they do the tests again,” Saunders said. But for hospitals in the alliance, the initial tests would be shared.

“Because we will be connected with each other, it actually increases efficiency and minimizes any repeat procedures,” she said. “That’s the difference. It’s more coordination.”

Central Georgia Health System and Tift Regional Health System first announced a partnership in April 2012. Saunders and Tift Regional CEO William Richardson worked to develop the beginnings of the alliance and recruit members.

More hospitals could join the Stratus alliance, Saunders said.

“I anticipate that there will be more. Some are delayed a little bit,” she said. “We may add more in 30 days or so.”

One reason the alliance was created is because of changes in how health care is being administered.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act will require that medical care be reimbursed based on “a fee-for-value framework rather than the fee-for-service model used in the past,” Saunders said.

Richardson said during a webcast from Greensboro that hospitals and physicians would be “judged more on the quality of the outcome we produce at a more reasonable cost than we’ve ever been measured before. It’s going to be less about how much we do with the patient, and it will be more about how well we do with the patient and how well we do with the health of the population.”

The Stratus partners want to add value for patients, and they realized “it could be accomplished much easier through the coordinated effort with other health care organizations,” Richardson said.

Stratus Healthcare will create work groups which initially will look at primary care, emergency medicine and specialty care networks, Saunders said. The work groups will consider developing clinical guidelines, telemedicine connections, transfer arrangements and agreements on how to share data.

Ultimately, patient care is what matters, she said.

“The basic principle and the center of everything we are doing here is the patient, how to make sure the patient has the right access to the right care at the right time at the right cost,” she said.

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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