Health Care Insider: How Does a Hospital Affiliation Agreement Improve Health Care?Feb 11, 2014
In a type of arrangement that’s becoming more and more common, Madison Memorial Hospital has entered into a formal affiliation agreement with University of Utah Health Care that will result in better health care for the residents of Rexberg, Idaho, and the surrounding area. Stressing it’s about collaboration and not competition, Madison Memorial Hospital CEO Rachel Gonzales addresses common questions people may have about the agreement. She also talks about what it means for patients and how it will provide better health care for the community.
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Interviewer: We're with Rachel Gonzales, CEO of Madison Memorial Hospital, and we're here talking about the brand new affiliation with Madison Memorial and the University of Utah. Thanks for taking time.
Dr. Rachel Gonzales: Absolutely. Thank you for being here.
Interviewer: What we'd like to do is just address some of the questions that some people in the community might have about what this affiliation is and what it isn't. You joked a little bit earlier. You're not buying anybody. Nobody's buying us. Talk a little bit about that.
Dr. Rachel Gonzales: Often, when people hear the term "affiliation," they assume that means that hospitals are merging, mergers acquisition, so it is important to identify up front that our affiliation with the University of Utah is truly a collaboration, and Madison Memorial is not buying the University of Utah or vice-versa. I like to joke that way because, of course, we're a small county hospital. It would not be likely. But the fact is that it is about collaboration and not about mergers and acquisitions.
Interviewer: And this is becoming more and more common throughout the United States. Is that correct?
Dr. Rachel Gonzales: That is correct across the nation. And I think that if you look at some of the institutions that have been successful as far as affiliation agreements, they have found partners that have common values, common mission statements, and commonality. They're not just looking for the closest partner or the most attractive. It truly has to be in alignment of philosophy to make it work.
Interviewer: What does this mean for the community that you serve?
Dr. Rachel Gonzales: It means that our hospital, through its affiliation with the University of Utah, has access to resources, training, and expertise that we currently have access to, but in an informal way. So, through a formal partnership, it allows our physicians, for example, to access the EMR at the University of Utah where they can truly take a look and follow up on their patients. It's about the patient flow and that continuum of care, and if you have a formal affiliation, then the access for the patients through the physicians is easier.
Interviewer: What about for the health of the community? How's it going to improve the health of the community?
Dr. Rachel Gonzales: Well, we are called health care institutions, and it is called health care. We tend to have a focus on illness. If you look at the University of Utah and their focus on quality and health, if we can mimic some of that here and use some of that expertise here, then I would anticipate that our health would go up as well in this community.
Interviewer: From what I understand, speak to the fact that residents of this community might not need to travel distances with this affiliation. Describe how that would work exactly.
Dr. Rachel Gonzales: Potentially through telemedicine, through the use of some visiting specialists from the University of Utah. If we have the physicians and we have the access to the resources where a patient can come here to Madison and tie into those resources of the U, they don't have to drive the three and a half hours down to get the same level of care.
Interviewer: How important is that to the getting better process?
Dr. Rachel Gonzales: It's important as far as being treated in your local hometown near your families and friends. You need that support system around you. When you're not uprooted and you're near your local support, near your church, near your family, near your home where you can go home, I mean, it truly does enhance the healing process.
Interviewer: Are there any perceived disadvantages, do you feel, in the community?
Dr. Rachel Gonzales: No, I haven't received any perceived disadvantages. I think the two initial threats are fears. When you hear the word "affiliation," it has to do with the buy out, or is the University or is Madison going to compete with local physicians or local health care such as the pharmacies? If we approach this about complementing what we currently have, it's about the philosophy instead of the competition, which just drives up the cost anyway.
Interviewer: Do you have any final thoughts? Anything that I've left out, anything you feel compelled to say?
Dr. Rachel Gonzales: Anyone listening to this needs to realize that health care is changing and the opportunities for hospitals, physicians, and providers to look at new ways to be innovative need to be excited and say, "You know what, it's about time we look at new ways to deliver health care, and we're grateful. We're grateful that both of our institutions and the physicians are happy for this affiliation." I think we're just beginning to define what it will do for both of us and our patients, of course.
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