DaVita Kidney Care and Northwell Health on Thursday announced a joint venture that they hope will boost the quality of renal-disease care for patients in Queens, Long Island and other areas of New York.
They plan to merge their resources for transplant and inpatient services, physician education and support, clinical research and other areas o care, the healthcare providers said in a press release. Later this year, they plan to open a free-standing dialysis center where nurses will instruct patients on how to use dialysis equipment at home.
Denver-based DaVita Healthcare Partners saw its earnings boom last year, buoyed by strong performance in its kidney-care division, which operates more than 2,200 outpatient dialysis facilities in the U.S. Northwell Health (formerly known as North Shore-LIJ Health System) is New York state's largest health system, generating more than $89 million in operating income in 2015.
The partnership comes as federal health officials and renal disease researchers have expressed concern about the quality of care that kidney patients receive. A study last year found that many dialysis patients get substandard care despite well-known best practices and standards.
The CMS began issuing star ratings for dialysis facilities in 2015 as part of its broader initiative to boost transparency and help Medicare beneficiaries compare quality. In a video accompanying the announcement, a DaVita spokeswoman noted that its facilities are more likely to be rated with four or five stars.
Davita and Northwell, however, emphasized that part of their focus will be on the expansion of in-home dialysis services. Patients whose kidneys have failed require life-saving dialysis treatments three times a week for three to five hours at a time in order to survive. Many travel to a dialysis facility for this care.
Special equipment can be placed in a dialysis patient's home if certain electrical and drainage requirements are met, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
While that option offers the patient more flexibility, access to home dialysis remains limited. Currently of the approximately 7,000 dialysis patients living in Queens or on Long Island, only about 325 have access to in-home dialysis, the joint news release said.
DaVita also announced Thursday it plans to acquire Family Health Care of Central Florida, a primary-care group based in Orlando and integrate it into its local medical group. Family Health Care has 13 providers and serves thousands of patients in the Orlando metro area, according to a press release. DaVita's JSA Medical Group works with primary-care providers and specialists to manage patients' care. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the transaction is expected to be finalized soon.