Health Care Insider: Small, Large Hospitals Partnering to Improve Health CareMay 27, 2014
In a growing trend to improve health care, smaller community hospitals have begun partnering with larger urban ones for access to specialists, providing employee training and gaining other support in a cost effective manner. Sometimes, these partnerships also allow patients to remain in their own communities instead of traveling long distances for treatment. We examine the benefits of such formal affiliation agreements by looking at the newly developed relationship between Community Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., and University of Utah Health Care in Salt Lake City.
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Host: Throughout the history of medicine the goal has been to provide the best care available for patients. One hundred years ago that was pretty simple. Dr. Donald Nicolay, Chief Medical Officer at Community Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Dr. Donald Nicolay: Medicine has changed dramatically. It's come from the country doctor with his black bag which contained most of the medications and instruments available to treat any illness. That physician was expected to care for whatever illness he came upon as he made his rounds through the community.
Host: Medicine has advanced light years since those days, and it's much more difficult for one hospital to serve every patients needs. Dr. Marc Breen emergency department director and Dr. David Robbins OBGYN at Community Hospital.
Dr. Marc Breen: We have several hospitals in town, however, even the largest of the hospitals in town doesn't offer all services that every patient may need.
Dr. David Robbins: Larger urban settings and university hospitals often offer services that smaller communities just can't justify having full time or afford having full time.
Dr. Marc Breen: Even with 155,000 patients in the Grand Valley we still don't have unlimited medical care, so there are certain elements of care that we can't provide.
Host: That's why hospitals like Community Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado have partnered with the University of Utah Hospital to provide better care. Here's Chris Thomas CEO at Community Hospital during a press conference announcing the affiliation with the University of Utah.
Chris Thomas: Over the past six years Community Hospital has made great strides at becoming a quality healthcare facility and active member of our community, and we have been committed to collaborating with our physicians and business leaders. We are constantly looking for better ways to deliver health care in a more cost effective manner, and this new partnership with the University of Utah only enhances our ability to deliver on our mission.
Host: The formal affiliation agreement will provide patients guaranteed access to the specialized service the University of Utah offers many times without even leaving the Grand Valley. Dr. Robbins and Dr. Breen.
Dr. David Robbins: Traditionally patients would have to travel to a university setting for what could end up being a 10 or 15 minute consultation and then have to return if any treatment was necessary. Now through this system we should be able to have a provider who will be able to be informed ahead of time why the patient is going to be transferred or whether or not their transfer is absolutely necessary.
Dr. Marc Breen: In the emergency department we're talking about expanding the role of telemedicince, so you'd have a patient who would come into the emergency department. They'd be evaluated by all of our physicians, nurses and staff here at the hospital, so they would get the care just like they've always gotten care. The extension would be that we'd have a specialist available by computer, essentially, that would be able to see the patient, would be able to talk to the patient, would be able to interact with that patient, direct the nursing staff, direct the physicians to do other testing in the emergency department, and help guide that patient's care.
Host: The affiliation agreement with the University of Utah will also provide a more structured way for Dr. Robbins and other physicians to refer their patients to more specialized care.
Dr. David Robbin: If that relationship doesn't exist already it becomes the responsibility of the provider, the nurses, or the institution to try to find a center that will accept and a center that has services that we need. Frequently it's not much more sophisticated than opening up a phone book knowing ahead of time that the services are available and the relationship exists already. To make these referrals will make our lives and our patients lives much easier when there is already a difficult situation.
Host: CEO Chris Thomas and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nicolay add that the partnership will also help community hospital provide even better care to their patients through collaboration and training.
Chris Thomas: For us I think it brings access to one of the best academic medical centers in the country. We're a small community hospital, so our ability to do research and look at best practices is limited. Now with this partnership we hope to really tie into what the University of Utah has been doing around really setting the bar for great health care.
Dr. Donald Nicolay: The University of Utah has an excellent educational academy set up, and we're looking forward to being able to take advantage of that to keep our nurses trained to the highest level possible.
Host: Dr. Nicolay assures us this is not a takeover. It's not a buy out, but it's a partnership where the University of Utah supports the great work Community Hospital is already doing.
Dr. Donald Nicolay: This is not a takeover. This is a very cordial association and relationship that will develop. This relationship is totally for the good of our patients to give them the best and the highest quality of care whenever possible right here in Grand Junction, and occasionally, for those complex illnesses be sure that they're transferred to a facility that will give them the best care when they get to that new facility.
Host: We're your daily dose of science, conversation and medicine. This is The Scope, University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.