After months of planning, four of the largest health systems in Arkansas have teamed with the state’s largest health insurance provider to create a shared services operating company.
Senior leaders at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Baptist Health, St. Bernards Healthcare, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Washington Regional Medical System jointly announced Thursday the formation of a shared services organization called The Partnership for a Healthy Arkansas.
The collaboration, according to its founding members, will bring together the five organizations to implement programs that improve the quality of health care quality and lower health care costs for patients and providers throughout the state.
The new organization will not include a merger among any of the founding companies, according to a news release.
Bill Bradley, the president and CEO of Washington Regional Medical System in Fayetteville, will be the chairman of the organization.
“Our organizations share a common commitment to deliver the best healthcare and health value to Arkansas citizens,” Bradley said. “Because all members of this collaboration are headquartered in Arkansas and we are all rooted in a not for profit mission, we share a synergy and a focus on improving the financing and delivery of healthcare to Arkansans, resulting in better healthcare for all.”
Chris Barber, president and chief executive officer of St. Bernards Healthcare in Jonesboro was elected vice chairman of the new organization.
“Following extensive discussions on how best to improve health care for Arkansans, these organizations came to the conclusion that collaboration on innovative health improvement and efficiency initiatives across the state was the right approach,” Barber said. “We retain our focus on our communities’ needs and learn best practices from each other.”
The Partnership for a Healthy Arkansas is evaluating opportunities to achieve cost savings and performance improvement in three main areas – operational shared services, population health shared services and clinical improvement shared services.
Troy Wells, Baptist Health president and CEO, the secretary/treasurer of The Partnership for a Healthy Arkansas, said specific programs in these three areas will reduce duplication, share the cost of expensive operations and improve performance for the benefit of patients and insurance plan members.
“To be successful, we will engage our affiliated physicians as leaders and partners in many initiatives,” he said.
Shared services organizations are becoming a preferred way for health systems across the country to lower costs and improve performance while remaining independent and community focused. Having Arkansas Blue Cross participate, however, is unique among such organizations nationwide.
Examples of potential collaborative efforts, according to the news release, include information technology, customer call centers, patient care management and coordination, expensive bio-medical equipment maintenance and quality and financial data analysis.
The collaboration will facilitate cooperation between the health systems and Arkansas Blue Cross to provide the best care at the lowest cost for the state’s most financially vulnerable individuals, as well as those residents who receive employer-sponsored coverage whether self-funded or fully insured.
“Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and these four leading health systems have a common goal of ensuring Arkansas’ residents receive high quality, efficient care under new and innovative payment arrangements and insurance products,” said Mark White, president and CEO of Arkansas Blue Cross. “Our collective efforts will ultimately improve the health of Arkansans by working in concert with our health system and physician partners,” he said.
“We are fortunate in Arkansas that the leading health systems and the state’s largest health insurer have a truly collaborative relationship and shared goals,” said Roxane Townsend, M.D., vice chancellor of clinical programs for UAMS and CEO of UAMS Medical Center.
UAMS and Baptist Health already are working together to reduce duplication in two clinical areas: vascular surgery and inpatient rehabilitation.
More areas of clinical cooperation are under consideration. In addition, UAMS collaborates with St. Bernards and Washington Regional through its regional programs, partnering on family medicine residency training, telemedicine and a variety of clinical programs including family medicine, geriatrics and high-risk pregnancy.
“UAMS is a valuable state asset and serves all Arkansans with services in all parts of the state,” said Dan Rahn, M.D., chancellor of UAMS, the state’s academic health sciences center. “Because Arkansas ranks 49th in overall health outcomes among the 50 states, we face a collective challenge and responsibility to address high percentages of smoking, poverty, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Cooperation to maximize resources and improve access to care is the key to improving the health of our citizens, and has a direct impact on employers and our entire economy.”