OP-ED

Let's truly explore coordinating healthcare in our state

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As Chairman of the Board of Integra Community Care Network, an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) consisting of RI Primary Care Physicians Corporation (RIPCPC), Care New England and South County Health, we have been working closely with CNE and its affiliates for the past 5 years. Our goal has been to improve the healthcare and health of our fellow Rhode Islanders while saving dollars through better collaboration and coordination of care. Integra has been successful in this effort by saving approximately 6 million dollars in 2015 and 14 million dollars in 2016 across our healthcare contracts. We have done this while also maintaining a 96 percent quality rating from CMS. Integra cares for over 120,000 Rhode Islanders.

It is public knowledge that CNE has been in discussions with Partners Healthcare in Boston for several months. CNE has struggled financially but has maintained a high quality of care throughout its financial troubles. The closing of Memorial Hospital was an inevitable occurrence. Since the closing, CNE’s financial situation has improved considerably. When I trained there in the 80’s, it was a thriving community hospital with over 300 beds filled at all times. At the time of its closing last year, the average census was approximately 30 beds. A hospital cannot exist with that type of occupancy. CNE has made a commitment to maintain its residency training programs and ambulatory services in the Pawtucket area and to continue to serve the local community and is taking bold steps to assure this.

The entrance of Lifespan into these discussions could potentially be an important milestone for the healthcare of Rhode Islanders. One of our challenges at Integra is that a significant portion of our patient care may end up at Lifespan hospitals. The lack of effective communication between the two systems has the potential of less than desirable care and poor patient satisfaction. For years, healthcare and government leaders have begged for more collaboration between the two largest healthcare systems in Rhode Island. If done properly, this may be “just what the doctor ordered” for Rhode Islanders.

The fear that collaboration between these three large healthcare systems could lead to higher costs is real. However, in Rhode Island, we are uniquely fortunate to have government agencies like the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner (OHIC) and others to monitor this and protect Rhode Islanders from higher costs.

The possibility of CNE, Partners and Lifespan collaborating, sharing resources and working together on all aspects of patient care could be the best thing that has ever happened to healthcare in our state. The question always asked is, “Why haven’t CNE and Lifespan done this already?”  There are many ways to answer that question, but, especially now, it’s more important to look ahead and explore the real possibility of truly coordinating healthcare in our state.

Physicians throughout Rhode Island, in all systems of care, have longed for a process where all providers can finally work together and share the best resources to help them provide better and more complete care to their patients. This could be the first giant step towards that goal.

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