SunHealth Alliance's strategic plan for 1995 calls for promoting further managed-care development and system-building among its 150 partner organizations.
The board of the Charlotte, N.C.-based alliance will meet in September to review the organization's proposed fiscal 1994-1995 strategic plan and $60.5 million budget, a 13% increase from last year's $53.5 million.
"Our goal is to become more strategically involved with our partners as they move to become integrated delivery systems," said Ben Latimer, SunHealth's president.
To that end, SunHealth would like to create a Center for Community Health Improvement. The center will be an umbrella organization to coordinate the alliance's managed-care and physician-integration efforts, Mr. Latimer said.
SunHealth currently helps its partners establish networks of PPOs and HMOs, and assists them in negotiating contracts with insurance companies. It also helps them market their services to enrollees.
Reflecting the move toward integrated healthcare delivery systems, SunHealth's management also has proposed revising the alliance's service-fee structure to one based on gross revenues, Mr. Latimer said. He declined to offer specifics of the proposed change.
Currently, SunHealth's partner organizations pay network service fees based on their number of facilities and beds. The American Hospital Association changed its dues structure in a similar way several years ago.
"Healthcare is moving away from single hospital sites and beds (as units of measure)," Mr. Latimer said. "It's more important to talk about delivery systems." He said the service-fee changes have been designed to be revenue neutral.
SunHealth is one of the nation's most diversified healthcare alliances, offering a range of services including group purchasing, management engineering, information services, and preferred-vendor and consulting arrangements. It employs 552 people and operates in 15 states.
The for-profit alliance is owned by 150 partners that operate 294 hospitals. About 22%, or 33, of its partners are multihospital healthcare systems that operate 112 hospitals.
"My personal opinion is that more than half (of SunHealth partners) will become multis (over the next five years)," Mr. Latimer said.
To increase access to SunHealth managers, Mr. Latimer said each of the alliance's top 19 executives will be assigned to chief executive officers of partner hospitals. SunHealth's seven regional vice presidents and corporate staff will continue to work with partners, he said.
"This will give us more strategic alignment of services to partners and more depth," Mr. Latimer said.
The Center for Community Health Improvement will include the Clinical Resources Management Initiative. Begun last year, the initiative is designed to help hospitals work with physicians to develop more efficient clinical service procedures. The program also includes assessing and improving customer service.
The goal of the initiative is to improve outcomes and manage financial risk as partners move toward capitated contracts, Mr. Latimer said.
Also part of the center is the Physician Practice Management Institute. The institute, which was unveiled earlier this year, will assist partner hospitals in integrating physicians into their delivery systems. It also includes services to help hospitals with medical staff education, practice management, recruiting, and to improve quality and utilization of clinical services (Feb. 7, p. 30).
Mr. Latimer said the center will include SunHealth's managed-care consulting services, which are being expanded.
"We will introduce a concept to bring partners a higher level of external expertise," Mr. Latimer said.
SunHealth plans to hire 12 new employees to help partners develop clinical resource management programs and managed-care arrangements, Mr. Latimer said. SunHealth also will strike several new preferred-vendor arrangements with consultants that specialize in a wide variety of areas, including finance and strategic planning, he said.
"We want to help our partners move toward capitation and clinical resource management," he said. "They also are working with physicians, where they are spending a disproportionate amount of time."