Englewood, Colo.-based Catholic Health Initiatives
, one of the largest U.S. health systems, is exploring options for partnering with St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck, N.D.
The two organizations signed a nonbinding letter of intent to create an affiliation for bringing more coordinated care
and enhanced patient services to the rural area served by St. Alexius, according to a release from the two Catholic health providers (PDF)
“This partnership would ensure a viable, innovative, high-quality care option for residents in light of healthcare reform
and other changes in the region,” Jeffrey Drop, senior VP of the Fargo division for Catholic Health Initiatives, said in the release.
In recent discussions about how to improve care, including the potential sharing of electronic health records, St. Alexius President and CEO Gary Miller says the two began considering a larger and more formal affiliation to address long-term needs. “We had the realization that with healthcare changing, we need to change with it,” Miller said.
St. Alexius and Catholic Health Initiatives have a long history of working together, according to Miller. The two already share services, including a reference lab and dialysis treatments, and local providers through an outreach program. St. Alexius sends physician specialists to Catholic Health Initiatives facilities in the area, including St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center in Dickinson, N.D., which uses two internal medicine physicians from St. Alexius. They also both participate in the Northland Health Alliance, a Catholic-led integrated healthcare delivery network based in Bismarck.
“We’re both Catholic-sponsored in our fundamental approach to care delivery,” Miller said. “We have great opportunities to make a system that functions even better for the people of western and central North Dakota.”
That, Miller says, includes partnering on an EHR system and realizing savings through economies of scale. In order to get there, he expects both sides to take about 90 to 120 days to conduct a process of due diligence before agreeing on the specifics of an affiliation.
That process is still in the very early stages, says Mike Romano, spokesperson for Catholic Health Initiatives. But if a formal consensus is reached, the affiliation is expected to be finalized by the end of this year.
Catholic Health Initiatives operates 87 hospitals across 18 states, including seven hospitals in North Dakota, according to the system.Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden