COLUMBIA — MU Health Care joined four health systems to create the Health Network of Missouri on Wednesday.
"We saw a need to become more efficient and have unified quality standards — to improve quality and make health care more efficient," said Mitch Wasden, chief executive officer and chief operating officer of MU Health Care.
Members of the network signed to form a limited liability company, which will formalize the collaborative relationships, said Mary Jenkins, spokeswoman for the MU Health System. She said the move reflects a national trend of health systems forming "clinically integrated networks," which allow systems to work together to provide better patient outcomes while retaining independence.
Glen Nelson, vice chairman of Bothwell Regional Hospital Center's Board of Trustees, said some major initiatives of the network will include:
- improving patients' health outcomes
- sharing best practices and other data
- improving access to health care
- seamlessly coordinating patient care among various providers through an integrated network
- lowering health care costs
The five systems included in the network are: MU Health Care, in Columbia; Hannibal Regional Healthcare System, in Hannibal; Capital Region Medical Center, in Jefferson City; Lake Regional Health System, in Osage Beach; and Bothwell Regional Health Center, in Sedalia.
These groups have worked together in the past, so forming a network made sense, said Harold Williamson Jr., executive vice chancellor of the MU Health System.
Talks about changing the health care systems in mid-Missouri began among the systems in 2011.
The systems within the network will share business, clinical and operational practices, Jenkins said.
"We'll be able to coordinate patient care among providers," she said. "We'll also be able to work together to manage large populations of patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes. If we can coordinate care and better manage populations of patients with chronic diseases, that means fewer repeat trips to the ER for patients and better outcomes."
The network will allow for group purchases, which would lower the cost of supplies, and shared health care registries. The benefits to patients would be higher quality of care and lower costs, Wasden said.
Collectively, the five systems host more than 1,000 hospital beds, more than 9,300 employees and about 1,000 employed and affiliated physicians, Williamson said. This includes both inpatient hospital settings and outpatient clinics, Jenkins said.
Each of the systems is the largest employer in its community, Williamson said.
The network will be a collaboration — not a merger, said C. Todd Ahrens, president and chief executive officer of Hannibal Regional Healthcare System. The hospitals and health networks in the system will remain independent, and each will have equal representation within the network. There will no change in governance or leadership.
"We're trying to collaborate constructively while still giving markets their own autonomy," Wasden said. "We're not coming through and all trying to be one big company or trying to buy each other up."
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