Atlantic Health System partners with MedExpress to bolster urgent-care network
Integrated provider Atlantic Health System has partnered with MedExpress and its 11 urgent-care centers in New Jersey, the organizations announced Thursday.
The jointly owned centers will allow MedExpress to refer patients to Morristown, N.J.-based Atlantic if patients require more specialized care. Ideally, the partnership will facilitate more affordable, coordinated care as new payment models drive more care to lower-cost settings within an all-inclusive network.
MedExpress, which will continue to manage day-to-day operations of the centers, provides an important addition to Atlantic's continuum of care, said Amy Perry, Atlantic's hospital division CEO and senior vice president of integrated care delivery.
"We are trying to serve a really broad geography in northern New Jersey where we cover 11 counties while trying to meet the needs of our consumers who are looking for convenient, affordable services in those neighborhoods," she said.
The deal follows health systems' push to boost their ambulatory facility footprint as the healthcare delivery dynamic changes. Urgent-care centers offer lower costs and convenience while broadening health systems' referral base. Yet, providers have to staff appropriately and share data through interoperable technology to make these types of arrangements work.
An Urgent Care Association white paper found that ER visits were 30% lower in communities with access to walk-in, no-appointment medical services via urgent-care centers versus areas without those services. Also, the cost to care for the same diagnoses in ERs was 10 times higher compared to urgent care, according to the paper.
Given these factors, the $18 billion urgent-care industry is expected to continue to grow 5.8% in 2018.
"Everyone is in a race to acquire more scale with the pricing pressure," said Matt Wells, director of strategy and product marketing for Intralinks, which helps guide organizations through mergers and acquisitions. "An interesting component of that is the proliferation of the urgent-care market, which is trying to help manage costs."
Not-for-profit Atlantic Health System includes six hospitals, more than 400 facilities, 16,500 employees and 4,800 affiliated physicians. It also includes Atlantic Alliance, a clinically integrated network representing 2,500 healthcare providers throughout northern and central New Jersey who are members of the Atlantic Accountable Care Organization and Optimus Healthcare Partners, another ACO.
MedExpress, which is owned by Optum, includes more than 200 urgent-care centers and nearly 6,000 employees.
Atlantic is also part of a group of New Jersey-based health systems that are pooling their resources to try to deliver a better insurance product to their 50,000 employees. Atlantic belongs to the Healthcare Transformation Consortium along with CentraState Healthcare System, Holy Name Medical Center, Hunterdon Healthcare, St. Joseph's Health and St. Peter's Healthcare System.
Atlantic hopes to build on this momentum to work with healthcare organizations across the state to form a more cohesive network, Perry said.
"In a declining reimbursement world, we all need to look for unique collaborations, which is why instead of building 11 new medical centers, we decided to partner with MedExpress," she said.
New Jersey providers are linking up throughout the market, a dynamic playing out across the country.
Hackensack Meridian Health, which was formed by the 2016 merger of Hackensack University Health Network and Meridian Health, finalized its merger with JFK Health in January. The combined health system, which is a partner with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, will launch a Seton Hall University-affiliated medical school this year.
RWJBarnabas Health—the result of the 2016 Robert Wood Johnson Health System and Barnabas Health merger—is pursuing a partnership with Rutgers University and its health group. RWJBarnabas also partnered with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in 2017 to build a network of pediatric facilities.
Atlantic recently started mapping its care networks by neighborhood to identify potential gaps in care, Perry said. It is noting whether its primary-care practices have appropriate specialists and services nearby so consumers have fewer barriers to access treatment.
Atlantic recently added nine primary-care sites to fill those gaps, Perry said.
"I think we are looking at potential collaborations in new ways in what would be traditional competitors," she said. "We need to open our mind to what we can do together to reduce costs."
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