Stand-alone Rockingham Memorial Hospital, Harrisonburg, Va., announced last week that it has signed a letter of intent to become part of eight-hospital Sentara Healthcare system, based in Norfolk, Va., and it noted that Sentara's information technology prowess was a major factor in the decision to do so.
Sentara's IT strategy a key draw for Rockingham
In June, Sentara CEO David Bernd was named one of the winners of Modern Healthcare's eighth annual CEO IT Achievement Awards program, and in an e-mail to Health IT Strategist, Rockingham President and CEO James Krauss said the hospital board was impressed that Sentara had "reached the highest level of electronic medical-record development as evaluated by HIMSS Analytics."
In March, HIMSS Analytics, the data analysis arm of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, recognized six of Sentara's eight institutions as "Stage 7" hospitals, meaning that (among other criteria) they deliver patient care without the use of paper charts, are able to share patient information by sending secure standardized summary records, and use clinical databases to improve care delivery, patient safety and clinical outcomes.
"One of the 10 criteria used by the RMH Board of Directors in selecting an affiliation partner was demonstrated clinical outcomes and clinical innovation,” Krauss said in his e-mail. “We were interested in Sentara Healthcare's clinical integration strategy and how they were the using information technology to advance their organization. We were very impressed with how they were collecting information on best practices in their system and then sharing it with other parts of their system to improve clinical outcomes."
He added that the board also appreciated that Sentara "does not have a 'one-size-fits-all' approach" and tailors its systems and IT decisions to what best suits the local market of its hospitals.
Although some solo hospitals are remaining steadfastly independent, Rockingham Memorial officials said they saw affiliation as the key to long-term success.
"The current economics of healthcare make it difficult for independent community hospitals like RMH to survive and thrive in the long term," Barbara Stoltzfus, Rockingham Memorial board chairwoman, said in a news release. The deal comes less than two months after Rockingham opened a $300-million, 238-bed facility.
The affiliation will not result in layoffs and the Rockingham Memorial Hospital name will be retained, according to the release. Proposed financial terms were not disclosed. After a due diligence period, a definitive agreement will be drafted, and a federal and state regulatory review will take place. The deal could close in early 2011, according to the release.
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