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Piedmont Healthcare, WellStar Health form care collaborative

In an effort to accelerate the development of innovative care models within their respective health systems, Piedmont Healthcare and WellStar Health System announced earlier this week the joint formation of the Georgia Health Collaborative, the first such organization in the state.

The core goal of the collaborative is to help both organizations share expertise with each other while also bringing to bear economies of scale designed to produce cost reductions. As a combined entity, the Georgia Health Collaborative will encompass 10 hospitals with nearly 2,400 beds, seven urgent care centers and more than 700 physicians in the Piedmont Physicians Group, Piedmont Heart Institute and the WellStar Medical Group. In all, the collaborative will provide healthcare to a service area in northern Georgia of more than 3 million people.

"This functional collaboration will allow us to learn things from each organization where one party may be more advanced than the other," said Reynold Jennings, president and CEO of WellStar Health. "An example of that is we are both putting in the Epic clinical documentation and clinical decision making system and (Piedmont) is about a year ahead of us. It's a great system, but it requires a lot of in-service education. So they can provide us with lessons learned and what worked well and what they would do differently."

On the flip side, WellStar has 10 physician-led clinical service lines including cardiology, cancer and pediatrics, to name a few. Three years into the development of this program, the plan would be to spread a similar approach to Piedmont's specialty groups.

"Bringing the best of Piedmont and WellStar together in this collaborative opens up a world of possibilities, from clinical discovery and care delivery innovations to developing products and services that truly move the market," said Patrick M. Battey, MD, chairman of the Piedmont Healthcare Board of Directors and interim CEO of Piedmont Healthcare, in a press release. "This is a powerful step for our organization."

Frank Lordeman has been named as executive director of the collaborative. Lordeman, managing partner and CEO of Lordeman & Associates, recently helped establish a similar collaborative in Cleveland which comprises three health systems.

While Piedmont and WellStar will be the founding partners in the collaborative, they may look to add additional partners in the future. The premise is that healthcare organizations that can provide a broader geographic reach along with a large population base will be best suited to adapt to both market and regulatory changes.

According to Jennings, the scale will also position the collaborative to take full advantage of the advent of the coming state-based health insurance exchanges mandated to be operation by 2014.

"With the two of us together and our 10 hospitals (we) are close to 3 million people in the Atlanta area. We would then decide whether we are contractors to traditional insurance companies, or whether we want to create our own private insurance network and offer that through the state health insurance exchange," said Jennings.

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