A Seamless Continuum of Care:
The Benefits, the Barriers
Tuesday, Aug. 9, 1-2: 30 p.m.
Developing an integrated healthcare system that connects various provider groups in a "seamless continuum of care" has become a top priority for executives of hospitals and healthcare systems.
But like so many other aspects of reform, providers are discovering that linking all types of healthcare providers, payers and patients in one integrated network is easier said than done.
Healthcare executives at this year's American Hospital Association convention in Dallas will describe various ways of identifying collaborative organizations within communities. They also will outline some of the steps necessary to integrate healthcare services into a seamless delivery system.
David Ashworth, executive vice president of Presbyterian Healthcare System, Dallas, will participate in the effort to demonstrate some of the existing seamless continuum of care models to the hospital community.
"A large part of forming (seamless continuums of care) depends on actual community needs," Mr. Ashworth said.
For example, some models focus on providers forming affiliations through a particular service line, such as cardiac care, urgent care or oncology. Other models center on healthcare providers linking with churches, schools and municipalities to form one diverse, vertically integrated network.
Presbyterian Healthcare System is working with outside agencies and institutions to create a vertically integrated healthcare network in Dallas' Vickory/Hamilton neighborhood-an inner-city community of about 100,000 with a high minority population of working class and poor.
"We're working more with public health agencies, community groups, the police-pieces that previously didn't work together," Mr. Ashworth said.
Rural hospitals also are working toward developing seamless continuums of care. Mercy Medical Center in Muskegon, Mich., is the anchor facility of a rural integrated delivery network that cares for a population of about 160,000. Sandra Bruce, chief executive officer of Mercy, will talk about the 175-bed hospital's effort.
Responding to a call to improve healthcare delivery in rural Michigan, Mercy executives developed a physician-hospital organization to attract qualified primary-care physicians, she said.
Mercy also has added an insurance component and an on-line information system to its network. It's close to wrapping up negotiations with an unrevealed regional insurance company to become the exclusive provider for its enrollees, Ms. Bruce said.
Adding all the vertical components to a rural hospital will position Mercy to become a leading provider in the region during the next few years, she said.
However, "we're doing this primarily because we're trying to form a delivery system that focuses on community needs," Ms. Bruce said.
Peter Straley, vice president of Jennings Ryan & Kolb, a Northampton, Mass.-based healthcare consulting firm, also will be on the panel. Mr. Straley was unavailable for comment.