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Trinity Health grows outpatient care network with Premier Health deal

Trinity's cost-saving measures, its investment returns and funds from the Provider Relief Fund helped the health system regain financial footing.

Mallory Hackett, Associate Editor

(Photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images)(Photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images)

Trinity Health, a 92-hospital nonprofit health system based in Michigan, has acquired a majority ownership stake in Premier Health, an urgent care clinic operator.

Premier Health is based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and specializes in health system-urgent care joint ventures. It currently manages more than 70 clinics across nine states on behalf of its health system partners.

Through the partnership with Trinity, it will run approximately 20 preexisting urgent care clinics affiliated with the health system. Premier plans to double the number of clinics it operates in connection with Trinity and other local health systems over the next few years, according to the announcement.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Trinity was among the health systems that took hard financial hits from the pandemic. For the fiscal year 2020, the health system had total operating revenue of $18.8 billion, down from $19.3 billion the year before, according to its earnings release.

Last July, the health system said its financial woes began at the start of the pandemic, due in large part to dips in inpatient and outpatient business.

At the time, it projected roughly $2 billion in revenue losses for FY 2021 and said it was pursuing cost-cutting measures including eliminating positions, laying off employees, extending furloughs and scaling back working hours.

But Trinity's cost-saving measures, its investment returns and the $1.3 billion it received from the Provider Relief Fund have helped the health system regain its financial footing, according to its first half of FY2021 earnings release.

It posted $10.3 billion in operating revenue for the first half of 2021, outpacing its projections from July. Still, patient volumes were still down 5% year-over-year, showing the pandemic's lasting effects.

THE LARGER TREND

Trinity has been working to build up its outpatient services in recent times.

When it announced the closure of its Chicago-based Mercy Hospital and Medical Center last July, Trinity also shared plans to transform Mercy's care delivery model from an inpatient model to an outpatient model.

But late last year, Illinois officials from the Health Facilities and Services Review Board voted to keep the hospital from closing over fears that patients would lose access to care in an area that already faces health disparities.

The same board voted again in January to deny Trinity's application to build the Mercy Care Center. Critics argued that the outpatient facility would not be an equal replacement to the full-service hospital.

Mercy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February, yet Trinity remains committed to its closure plan and said it anticipates the Mercy Care Center will open in 2021. There will be another meeting with the state review board on March 16.

Trinity is not alone in moving its focus towards outpatient care for its ability to lower costs, to make recovery easier for patients, and to improve the continuum of care, according to a survey by Definitive Healthcare.

ON THE RECORD

"Aligned with our mission to be a transforming healing presence for our communities, our goal is to enhance and expand our urgent care clinic footprint and access to care," said Dr. Dan Roth, executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Trinity Health.

"Through this partnership, urgent care services will be more convenient and accessible to better meet people's needs. Patients will benefit from a seamless, coordinated care experience between urgent care, primary care and other services within the communities we serve together."

Twitter: @HackettMallory
Email the writer: mhackett@himss.org