One of the nation's leading academic medical centers and the second-largest for-profit hospital chain by revenue announced a far-reaching collaboration Monday aimed at improving the quality of care while lowering costs at community hospitals across the U.S.
The Cleveland Clinic, world-renowned for its cardiovascular care, will lend its expertise to the more than 130 hospitals in 29 states run by Community Health Systems, which is headquartered in Franklin, Tenn. CHS will gain access to a “quality alliance” already in place at the Cleveland Clinic that can electronically capture, report and compare data about patient outcomes; come up with predictive models for improving patient outcomes; and share those best practices across the CHS system.
“Clinical integration will provide a mechanism for the sharing of data to drive better value regardless of geography,” the two organizations said in a news release.
The combination comes as political leaders in Washington continue to put pressure on healthcare providers to trim costs. In addition, the 2010 healthcare reform law has fueled a wave of consolidation activity across the U.S. as providers seek new ways to better control costs and improve outcomes.
The pressure to reduce costs has led to numerous deals and partnerships between unlikely collaborators, such as insurers with providers and not-for-profit hospitals with for-profit hospitals. But the alliance between the Cleveland Clinic and Community Health Systems is one of the first major alliances to link academic medicine to the private sector. The Cleveland Clinic system operates 11 hospitals in Florida and Ohio.
“This is innovative,” said Wayne Smith, chairman, president and CEO of Community Health Systems. “It's different. It's long-term and it's about quality and highly improved patient experience and how we can be more productive in doing that.”
As part of a five-year agreement, the organizations will focus on three areas. In addition to the quality alliance that focuses on physicians and data analysis, the Cleveland Clinic will work to improve cardiovascular services across the CHS system, which could lead to more referrals to Cleveland Clinic for tertiary care; and the two groups will work on common issues such as advancing telemedicine and reducing supply costs.
Both organizations will remain independent and the alliance will be guided by a coordinating council that will have equal representation from the Cleveland Clinic and CHS. A CHS spokeswoman said in an e-mail that there are “minor transactional fees” but they would not be considered a capital investment.
The Cleveland Clinic emphasized its access to CHS' broad-based network, which should help spread the clinic's brand as well as lead to more referrals, said Dr. Delos Cosgrove, president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. The objective, he added, is to “build a relationship that could make us both stronger.”
Some CHS hospitals will work with the Cleveland Clinic's heart and vascular institute and other medical specialties.
“I don't think the Cleveland Clinic would be working with us if we didn't already have a very high level of quality,” Smith said. “Not only do we have skills in terms of development and enhancement and running hospitals and a very broad footprint, we've already demonstrated that we have a very high level of quality and great innovative physicians who are receptive to continuing to work to improve.”