'Partnerships allow us to care for everyone'

By Tom Kruse | April 11, 2018

photograph of lobby of CHI Franciscan Hospital in Washington State

It's no secret that demand for healthcare is on the rise. Last year, the number of Americans with health insurance hit a record high. The number of U.S. residents age 65 and older – who often need more and more specialized services – is expected to increase 55 percent by 2030, contributing to a shortage of up to 100,000 doctors. Healthcare spending will hit $3.7 trillion in 2018 and see a 5.5 percent yearly increase over the next 10 years.

Even growing health systems like my organization, CHI Franciscan Health, are feeling the squeeze. More and more, innovators in healthcare are looking to partnerships to keep costs down for patients, reduce costly investments for health systems, and provide high-quality care.

CHI Franciscan's partnership model looks at the strengths of other organizations and how, together, we can improve care for our communities. Over the past several years, we've successfully partnered with Virginia Mason to bring online best-in-class radiation oncology services; our partnership with Kindred brings new in-patient rehabilitation services to our community; and we even partnered with a regional competitor to expand much-needed behavioral health services.

These partnerships are successful because they deliver the best available services for patients, while keeping out-of-pocket and insurance premium costs down. There's no need for CHI Franciscan, for example, to invest millions of dollars in new rehabilitation services when there is a national provider, like Kindred, that's already a recognized expert and can bring its expertise to our patients.

One of our most exciting partnerships is in the urgent care space. CityMD brings a completely unique, first-in-class care model to patients here in Washington state. New York City-based CityMD employs primarily board-certified emergency medicine physicians, meaning most patients receive a level of care they would not typically experience at another urgent care provider. With available services like IV care, X-rays, EKGs, and on-site lab testing, CityMD can deliver enhanced immediate care services right where patients live, work, and play. Making this care available locally also keeps patients out of already-overwhelmed emergency departments and saves patients valuable minutes – or even hours – in wait times.

Partnerships allow us to maintain a continuum of care for everyone who touches our services. These partnerships are essentially interoperable – meaning patients can enter the system at any point and experience a seamless continuum of care whether they entered via an urgent care center, a clinic, or a hospital.

With patient needs driving our design and access decisions, we are able to meet expectations while ensuring world-class quality of care to all who need it. Health systems seeking to increase access to quality, affordable care should consider making partnerships a cornerstone of their efforts.

Tom Kruse is chief strategy officer for CHI Franciscan Health of Seattle and Tacoma, Washington.

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