In an attempt to strengthen its base under healthcare reform, the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems has agreed to open its membership ranks to medical/surgical hospitals with psychiatric units.
The Washington-based group also hopes to work more closely with other psychiatric services interest groups to solidify efforts in the healthcare reform debate. "We're too diffused and could be much stronger if we spoke with one voice," said Robert Trachtenberg, NAPHS' executive director.
The association traditionally has been dominated by investor-owned systems, such as National Medical Enterprises, Charter Medical Corp., Hospital Corporation of America and Community Psychiatric Centers.
However, that profile is changing. CPC and Charter have reduced their size, HCA's hospitals are about to be merged into Columbia Healthcare Corp. and NME's 61 psychiatric facilities are up for sale (See story, p. 14).
To attract new blood, the 300-member group has been courting smaller chains.
"Our organization would never have considered this group three years ago," said Fletcher McCusker, chief executive officer of Introspect HealthCare Corp., a four-hospital company based in Tucson, Ariz.
To encourage Mr. McCusker to attend the group's annual meeting late last month in San Diego, NAPHS waived Introspect's registration fee.
"They've reached out to us to say `we need the new breed,'*" he said, noting that less than 10% of his company's patients are hospitalized.
Recognizing this trend away from inpatient care, the group last year changed its name from the National Association of Private Psychiatric Hospitals.
Membership then was opened to partial-hospital programs and residential treatment centers.
Now, to widen its clout, NAPHS will offer a special $1,500 annual membership fee for hospitals with psych units.
That represents a discount from the average NAPHS membership fee of about $5,000.
However, the changed fee structure could be a big revenue boost because there are some 2,000 medical/surgical hospitals with psychiatric units.
Even so, NAPHS realizes that most of the hospitals it hopes to attract are members of the American Hospital Association, and joining NAPHS would represent an extra cost for them.
"I think this organization has a lot more to offer than either the AHA or the Federation (of American Healthcare Systems)," said George Bone, president of HCA Psychiatric Co. and a past NAPHS president.
In the healthcare reform battle, "if there's a push or shove thing, it's going to go the way of the med/surg (interests)," Mr. Bone said. Often, psychiatric services are "low on the totem pole" with other hospital groups, he added.