—Vanderbilt University Medical Center is further expanding its reach across the state with a new affiliation agreement with West Tennessee Healthcare, Jackson. The deal represents 909-bed Vanderbilt's fifth affiliation in the region since October 2011. The academic medical center also has a cancer-care affiliation in place with Baptist Memorial Health Care, Memphis, that it forged three months ago. Terms were not disclosed for the agreement, which allows the systems to collaborate on programs and services as well as new measures to improve quality and reduce the cost of care, according to a news release. The agreement will also enable the systems to develop joint Centers of Excellence as well as educational and research programs and new clinical information technology tools. West Tennessee Healthcare, a public system with six hospitals—including 619-bed Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, one of the largest in the state—serves 18 rural counties in the western part of Tennessee.
—Texas Health Resources and insurer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas announced talks to form an accountable care organization. Ronald Long, chief financial officer and executive vice president of resource development and deployment for the 13-hospital system, said a final agreement is expected in July and the newly formed ACO would launch Jan. 1, 2014. Long said details such as cost-saving targets have yet to be finalized, but the agreement will tie performance payments to quality and cost controls. Blue Cross and Blue Shield patients who are treated by Texas Health Resources' employed primary-care physicians will be covered by the accountable care agreement, he said. Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, vice president and chief medical officer for the insurer, said quality measures for preventive services, chronic disease management and hospital-acquired infections were among the types of measures under consideration. Sanchez said the agreement would be the Texas Blues' first ACO contract, though the insurer is in talks with other health systems. Texas Health Resources was among the first to form a Medicare ACO under the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation's Pioneer ACO program. Long said Texas Health Resources and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas drew on the Pioneer program as a model for their effort. As many as 200,000 patients could be included in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas ACO, which is a fraction of Texas Health Resources' patients, Long said, “but the idea is to get started.”
—LSU Health Sciences Center is collaborating with Peoples Health, a Medicare Advantage administrator, on a new care-coordination initiative that will also have a shared-savings component. Called the Center for Healthcare Advancement, the program expands the health plan's “virtual medical home” model, allowing LSU physicians to work with the nurse practitioners, social workers and other personnel at Peoples Health to manage care for beneficiaries. The program will focus on chronic disease management and promote lifestyle changes such as physical activity and smoking cessation. It also aims to increase patient compliance with treatments through services including phone call reminders and transportation to doctors' appointments. “There's a big emphasis on self-care, and putting the patient and the family in the driver's seat,” said Dr. Steven Nelson, dean of LSU's medical school, on a media call. “Healthcare is a team sport,” he said. Carol Solomon, CEO of Peoples Health, noted that shared savings will be part of the program's contractual model, and there will be a particular emphasis on collecting outcomes data. Peoples Health will also assume the cost for setting up senior wellness as well as primary-care centers in each market. “All of these will be available to the primary-care physician in that market,” she said. “We will be supplementing the services they're providing.” Peoples Health covers about 55,000 beneficiaries in southeast Louisiana.