Three healthcare systems in North Carolina announced plans to form a jointly owned corporation that will help them provide services on a regional basis and attract managed-care contracts.
Cabarrus Memorial Hospital in Concord, N.C.; Gaston Health Care in Gastonia, N.C.; and Presbyterian Healthcare System in Charlotte, N.C., have formed Preferred Care Network to serve North Carolina and South Carolina.
Executive Director Steven Burke said the new company stops short of a merger of the three systems. He said they structured the company as a limited liability partnership with each system owning an equal stake.
Burke said the new network will coordinate the systems' lab services and establish a management services organization that provides centralized support for their physician practices. He said the network also will combine the systems' utilization review, case management and computer information systems related to managed-care contracting.
While the systems will continue to independently operate their medical staffs and provide clinical services, Burke said the network will help enrollees of contracted managed-care plans access any of its member hospitals and physician offices. Currently, he said, enrollees too often are restricted to the services of only one of the three systems. In addition, he said, the network will help the systems reduce costs and allow physicians to be more involved in the case management process.
The alliance comes on the heels of an announcement last month that Roper CareAlliance in Charleston, S.C., has signed a one-year management contract with a competitor of the newly aligned hospitals, Carolinas HealthCare System. Roper controls 400-bed Roper Hospital and 104-bed Roper Hospital North in Charleston, and Carolinas HealthCare operates 18 acute-care, rehabilitation and psychiatric hospitals in North Carolina and South Carolina.
The hospitals in the new network said competition for managed-care contracts spurred their decision. They said membership in the network will be open to other area hospitals in the future.
"We look forward to providing the managed-care market with a healthcare delivery system that offers the facilities and physicians of the Preferred Care Network in a single signature," said Paul Betzold, president and chief executive officer of Presbyterian. "The efficiencies and cost savings we can create will be very attractive in our competitive managed-care market."