1. Why has Blessing chosen to develop a relationship with other health care systems?
The health care landscape has been changing rapidly in recent years. In response to those changes, the Board of Trustees of Blessing Corporate Services, Inc., the parent organization of the Blessing Health System, began a careful review of options for relationships with hospitals and health systems outside the Quincy area. The goal is to strengthen the Blessing Health System by aligning with other providers of high quality health care services in the regions surrounding the Tri-State area and, together, to provide even higher quality health care to the Tri-State residents.
2. Why the BJC Collaborative, LLC?
The Board established criteria against which to evaluate potential relationships including: (a) enhancing medical services in the Tri-State region; (b) improving quality and reducing the costs of such services; (c) retaining local ownership of assets, and (d) maintaining local governance control. After evaluating several proposals against these criteria, the Board determined that participation in the BJC Collaborative best meets its stated goals.
Through the BJC Collaborative, Blessing will be able to participate in the following initiatives:
Blessing's participation in the BJC Collaborative does not involve a change in ownership of Blessing's assets or in its governance. Blessing remains intact with opportunities to reduce costs and improve care quality as well as clinical and service performance.
The BJC Collaborative also enables Blessing to connect to the St. Louis and Springfield, Ill., health care markets, where many of its patients are referred for tertiary and quaternary medical care, and specifically to work more closely with BJC HealthCare and Memorial Health System. BJC HealthCare includes Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children's Hospital, which are academic medical centers affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine.
3. Is this the first step toward a merger?
No. Blessing has not discussed a merger with the BJC Collaborative members. Instead, the Collaborative signals a commitment to work together under a structure that allows each participant to maintain its unique identity, to preserve its independence, and to serve the health care needs of its local communities. At the same time, the participants can derive both the quality-of-care and financial benefits that come from being part of a larger Collaborative enterprise. The participants will be able to share services, costs and best practices where possible, while remaining independent systems.
4. Will there be leadership changes?
No. Blessing will continue to operate independently with local governance and local leadership as presently constituted.
5. How will Blessing's employees be affected by this relationship?
Blessing anticipates that the work of the Collaborative will be transparent to patients, families and the people who take care of them. Initially, the focus will be to capture opportunities to reduce or share costs in areas such as supplies, energy management, contracted services, equipment purchasing and maintenance, and information technology hardware and infrastructure. Blessing will participate in leadership roundtables to share best practices in areas such as regulatory compliance and employee lifelong learning and professional development. Blessing will work with the Collaborative to find new approaches to improving patient care and service and making Blessing's facilities even safer places to receive medical care.
6. How will physicians be affected?
Blessing looks forward to providing its physicians with Blessing Physician Services and hospital-based physicians (e.g., emergency department physicians, radiologists, pathologists and anesthesiologists) the opportunity to collaborate in the development of clinical programs and services with other participants in the Collaborative. There may also be opportunities to work with other physicians, such as those employed with Quincy Medical Group, to create joint opportunities for accountable care delivery systems. In addition, through closer cooperation with regional health care providers, Blessing intends to promote the recruitment of more specialists and subspecialists to the Tri-State area.
Blessing is also strengthening the voice of physicians in the operation of the system through its Physician Leadership Council. For several years, the council has advised Blessing Hospital on how to enhance the quality and efficiency of health care services at the hospital. Beginning immediately, the Physician Leadership Council will become an advisory body to the entire Blessing Health System and interact directly with the Board of Trustees and senior management of Blessing Corporate Services, Inc., which is the system's parent organization.
The members of the Physician Leadership Council currently consist of physicians with Quincy Medical Group and Blessing Physician Services. The membership will be expanded to include physicians serving the patients of Illini Community Hospital in Pittsfield and other physician groups that may begin to practice in Blessing's service area.
7. Exactly how will this affiliation lead to better patient care? Reduced costs?
The participants in the Collaborative, such as BJC HealthCare and Memorial Health System, have achieved superior quality scores in a number of clinical service areas. Comparing different approaches and measuring patient-specific outcomes will help Blessing determine what works best and how to replicate best practices in Blessing's facilities.
In addition, Blessing and the four founding members of the Collaborative are members of VHA, Inc. VHA and its group purchasing organization, Novation, have already afforded Blessing and these four systems numerous cost reduction opportunities. The idea is to expand the list of what the participants can purchase together, what they can develop together, and what they can implement together to realize even greater economies of scale and improvements in patient care services.
8. Are you creating a new, combined group purchasing organization?
No. Blessing and the four founding systems in the Collaborative are already members of VHA. However, to the extent that the participants can adopt standards for certain products, supplies, and equipment and coordinate the timing of these purchases, there may be additional opportunities for savings.
9. Will you have one Electronic Medical Record platform with the other participants in the Collaborative?
Not in the near future. While Blessing, BJC HealthCare and Memorial Health System utilize the same software application for electronic medical records, other participants in the Collaborative have made sizable investments in different software applications. However, over time, it is possible that a common EMR platform will be one of those areas of focus, so the participants may migrate to common solutions for mutual benefit.
Independent of the Collaborative, Blessing and Memorial are participants in the Lincoln Land Health Information Exchange. The exchange is an initial step among several Central Illinois-based health care providers to facilitate the exchange of patient information among healthcare providers securely and efficiently. Blessing recognizes information sharing and management is important to enhancing its delivery of health care services.
10. Can others join the Collaborative?
The founding members of the BJC Collaborative will determine whether to invite additional health systems to join. Blessing is pleased to be the first non-founding system to be asked to participate.
11. Does this mean Blessing will not be partner with any other health care providers in the future?
Participation in the BJC Collaborative is a natural extension of Blessing's long-time relationship with Memorial Health System. Blessing and Memorial have a shared interest in the following initiatives that they will continue to explore along with new ones together and/or through the BJC Collaborative:
In addition, Blessing will continue to have business relationships with other organizations, including, among others, the Quincy Medical Group and SIU Family Practice. However, Blessing is committed to working through the Collaborative in the priority areas its members have identified to reduce costs, share best practices and improve quality.