New Hospital Venture Joins Nonprofit And For-Profit Health Systems

WBUR’s Martha Bebinger reports that there’s a new statewide hospital partnership in the works: Tufts Medical Center and the national for-profit network Vanguard Health Systems are launching a joint venture:

Tufts and Vanguard, which owns Metrowest and Saint Vincent’s plan to build a network of high quality lower cost hospitals and physician groups across the state. A partnership between for-profit and not for profit hospitals is unusual in Massachusetts, but Tufts CEO Eric Beyer says the for-profit stigma is fading.

Eric Beyer, President and CEO, Tufts Medical Center

“It’s fair to say that some people have that,” Beyer said. “But as they get to know Vanguard and who they are and their long experience in working with hospitals and physicians I think that begins to change.”

This venture is the latest as smaller hospitals join larger systems with experience in managing budgets and patient care.

Here’s the full press release:

Tufts Medical Center, Vanguard Health Systems and the New England Quality Care Alliance physicians network announced today they have entered into a period of exclusive negotiations to create a dynamic new health system to expand the organizations’ ability to offer high-quality, lower-cost care in Massachusetts.

The joint venture will build upon the organizations’ existing strong partnerships in the Massachusetts market to provide services to improve patient health across the entire continuum of care and assist physicians and hospitals in delivering high quality, affordable care. The system will also offer a new choice for physicians and hospitals considering affiliations, mergers or acquisitions. Tufts Medical Center will remain an independent, not-for-profit academic medical center.

“This will be an innovative partnership unlike anything Massachusetts has seen to date. This system will deliver for patients and providers on cost, service and quality. It offers an excellent option for physicians and hospitals who are exploring potential alignments as we move toward building accountable care organizations,” said Eric Beyer, president and CEO of Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children.

“With this partnership we will build upon the shared vision and strong cultural alignment we have with Tufts Medical Center and NEQCA. This arrangement illustrates our commitment to the New England market – one of the most dynamic centers of health care in the United States and across the world,” said Erik Wexler, president of the New England market for Vanguard Health Systems and president and CEO of Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester.

The three organizations will be developing the specific structure and services of the joint venture over the next few months. Among those services under consideration are enhanced chronic care and population health management, streamlined administrative services for physicians and hospitals, new insurance products and direct to employer services. Tufts Medical Center, New England Quality Care Alliance and Vanguard already have a successful track record working together to improve patient care. Vanguard-owned MetroWest Medical Center, with hospital campuses in Framingham and Natick, has been a pediatric affiliate of Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center for three years and an adult affiliate of Tufts Medical Center for two years. The MetroWest Accountable Healthcare Organization, a 165-member physician group, is a member of NEQCA, and The Heart Center of MetroWest, one of the largest cardiology groups in the MetroWest area, is also affiliated with Tufts Medical Center. The expanded relationship will provide Tufts MC with a minority stake in MetroWest Medical Center, cementing that affiliation and expanding the possibilities for clinical integration.

“Together we can provide transformative approaches to clinical and business operations, especially around patient safety, care delivery and patient experience. This relationship further delivers what Massachusetts needs: an enhanced high-quality, lower cost network that supports community-based care and has access to excellent academic medical center services as well as flexible and sustainable capital. We look forward to sharing our collaborative model with physicians and hospitals in the market,” Wexler said.

“Tufts Medical Center and NEQCA strengthen our competitive position in the marketplace with this joint venture, and together with Vanguard, we will be able to offer our affiliates and potential affiliates increased access to capital and resources to improve patient care and efficiency. We’re excited about working with Vanguard to accelerate innovation in this rapidly-changing market,” said Beyer.

Recently, Tufts Medical Center, NEQCA and Vanguard sponsored Minuteman Health, a member-owned and governed health plan that received an $88.5 million startup loan from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This revolutionary new health plan expects to begin enrolling members in January 2014.

The system Tufts MC and Vanguard are creating will build on the exceptional population health and quality initiatives underway at NEQCA, and will provide administrative, contracting and technology services for physicians’ offices, including the nearly 1,600 physician members of NEQCA located throughout Eastern Massachusetts and the MetroWest area.

“Since its inception, NEQCA has been widely respected for its ability to deliver outstanding quality in the most efficient manner. Our physicians are leaders and have developed a pervasive culture of quality and innovation,” said Jeffrey Lasker, MD, CEO of the New England Quality Care Alliance. “This partnership will allow NEQCA to broaden its reach and more quickly execute leading-edge initiatives that will change the way health care is delivered and provide expanded wellness services and increased satisfaction to patients.”

The decision to enter into exclusive negotiations follows each organization’s commitment to delivering high quality care at a lower cost and in a community setting whenever possible.

“Floating Hospital for Children is recognized regionally and nationally for outstanding clinical care and for top-notch pediatric educational and research programs, and this joint venture offers the opportunity for us to expand our reach and enable new patients and providers to take advantage of the comprehensive services and programs offered here,” said John R. Schreiber, MD, MPH Pediatrician-in-Chief and Chief Administrative Officer at Floating Hospital for Children. “This is an important step to enhance pediatric care in Massachusetts and to provide an affordable quality option for more patients and families.”

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