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Mercy Health Partners continues to move ahead on a $300 million full-service medical center called Mercy Hospital West.
Mercy Health Partners continues to move ahead on a $300 million full-service medical center called Mercy Hospital West.

Healthcare Market Profile: Cincinnati-Middletown

Congruence and quality: Cincinnati hospitals investing in new facilities, information technology

By Jaimy Lee
Posted: July 25, 2011 - 12:01 am ET

The healthcare market in Cincinnati remains competitive and the focus, hospital executives say, is on quality as a number of area hospitals are choosing to adopt the same electronic health-record system.

“That's a testimony to people really trying to improve quality,” says James May, president and CEO of Cincinnati-based Mercy Health Partners. “You're going to have a remarkable congruence of providers, which all are engaged in managing health to its greatest positive effect toward patients.”

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According to May, a number of hospitals and health systems in Cincinnati plan to adopt an EHR system developed by Epic Systems Corp., a Verona, Wis.-based health IT provider, including Mercy Health Partners, an eight-hospital system owned by Catholic Health Partners.

“What we're creating is a network of care that's ready to improve the value equation in terms of access, improving quality and lowering costs so that we give people a great value for their care,” May says. “That's really indicative of the region.”

Like many other health systems in Ohio, Mercy Health Partners reported an increase in charity care in recent years. May says that roughly 8% of the system's revenue was charity care. Five years ago, he says, charity care made up less than 6% of the system's revenue.

“We have seen that increase due to the recession,” he notes, “although I would say Cincinnati has a fairly broad economic base and wasn't affected as greatly as some of the other areas of Ohio.”

The health system continues to move ahead with investments, including a $300 million full-service medical center called Mercy Hospital West. The project will combine two inpatient, acute-care hospitals into the medical center, which will also offer physicians' offices, free-standing emergency rooms, rebuilt ambulatory facilities and women's centers.

“What we're doing is creating a comprehensive network of care on the West side of Cincinnati all the way to the Indiana border,” May says. “That's a huge investment for our company.”

Jim Castle, president and CEO of the Ohio Hospital Association, says that one of the ongoing challenges for hospitals in the region is ensuring funding for major building projects and health information technology investments. He adds that many of the state's independent community hospitals have to turn to outside investors or deals with health systems.

“We've not seen the effects at this point of the decline on construction and if you will, capital markets being available for the hospitals,” Castle says.

Mercy's parent company recently made a deal with Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems for it to acquire a three-hospital system in northeast Pennsylvania owned by Cincinnati-based Catholic Health Partners. And, in 2010, CHP acquired Jewish Hospital, a 209-bed hospital also based in Cincinnati.

In June, Mercy Health Partners named Mike Stevens president and market leaders for its operations on the West side of Cincinnati. May says the system has started to name its hospital presidents market leaders.

“We're really thinking about people in a broader sense,” he adds “The traditional role of the executive managing that pile of bricks and mortar called a hospital, that's important, but it transcends that. We're having these market leaders focus as much outside the walls of the hospital on the continuum of care and network of care as inside the walls.”

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