Wellmont Health System
, Kingsport, Tenn., announced Thursday it plans to assess strategic options, including the possibility of aligning with another healthcare organization.
A challenging climate for the healthcare industry—particularly low patient volumes, reimbursement cuts and performance penalties under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
—is prompting the need to adapt to a changing environment, Wellmont officials underscored.
In Tennessee and Virginia, where Wellmont operates, the decisions not to expand Medicaid, along with low Medicare payment rates and high volumes of Medicaid
and uninsured patients, have further motivated organization officials to address the local operating challenges.
In October, Wellmont shut down its Lee Regional Medical Center in Pennington Gap, Va., as Wellmont President and CEO Denny DeNarvaez blamed these same issues
, pointing to “cuts (that) are hitting faster than struggling rural hospitals can respond.”
“Because of the mandate of our vision—to deliver the best healthcare anywhere—we strongly believe we must act now to ensure Wellmont evolves with the rapidly changing healthcare industry and continues to provide outstanding care for generations to come,” Buddy Scott, Wellmont's board chair, said in a statement posted on the organization's website
Wellmont's board, with the help of national healthcare experts, has formed a special committee to evaluate its future options. According to the health system, it is not alone in doing so. Wellmont officials referenced a national survey of healthcare leaders that indicated 75% of health systems were pursuing or considering aligning with another organization.Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden