4 health-care systems announce collaboration

New plans available for Mercy’s patients


Four Ohio health-care organizations, including the Cincinnati parent of northwest Ohio’s Mercy system, went public Wednesday with a collaborative effort they started last year to improve care for their own employees.

Health Innovations Ohio is intended to promote best-practices coordination among Mount Carmel Health System of Columbus, Summa Health System of Akron, University Hospitals of Cleveland, and Catholic Health Partners of Cincinnati, Mercy’s parent, along with fostering more coordinated care for all systems’ patients, Jim Reber, HIO’s president and chief executive, said.

The collaborative has focused initially on managing care for seniors and people with chronic illnesses, “population health management” for the sponsoring systems’ employees and dependents, and making Medicare Advantage health-insurance plans now offered by Mount Carmel and Summa available to patients at the other two systems.

HIO, organized in mid-2012, is not a reaction to the alliance announced last month between Toledo’s ProMedica and the Cleveland Clinic, nor is it necessarily analogous, said Mr. Reber, who professed limited knowledge of that announcement.

“Health Innovations Ohio was born of a belief by the leaders of the four founding organizations that health-care reform brings an opportunity to make real changes that lead to better care for our communities,” he said. “Through the course of normal dialogue, it became clear that these four systems shared a common goal to make health care better, which led to discussions about the potential of working together.”

“Health care is changing. Traditionally, it has been very fragmented,” said Sarah Bednarski, a Mercy spokesman in Toledo. “But now, it’s about coordination, and providing an entire spectrum of care.”

Population health care, they explained, is creating communication links between medical professionals and related fields, including dietitians and pharmacists, to track patients’ health and engage their participation in their care plans.

As people become ill, they should be “partnering” with their health-care providers, developing a team approach, rather than treating each doctor or specialist on an individual basis, said Mr. Reber, a past president of St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima. Best-practices medical care, he said, emphasizes preventive care and better coordination.

“We started with our own employees, and are seeing positive results in areas like weight loss and diabetes management,” Mr. Reber said.

The result at two of the HIO-affiliated health systems, he said, was lower increases in employee health costs compared with the national average.

The four HIO founders together employ more than 70,000 people. Mr. Reber and an assistant are HIO’s only employees; its board comprises the four systems’ chief executive officers.

“All four of these systems are very committed to remaining as independents,” he said. “We are developing a new model of care for each of us in our own markets.”

Expanding MediGold, offered by Mount Carmel, and SummaCare, offered by Summa, to providers and facilities belonging to Catholic Health Partners and University Hospitals makes Medicare Advantage health insurance available in 66 Ohio counties where it could not previously be obtained, Mr. Reber said.

In time, according to a the statement, HIO’s founders envision entering the Medicaid market as well as Medicare “by working with Medicaid managed-care contractors and aligning incentives through pay-for performance and shared-savings contracts.”

But Mr. Reber said that goal is still in the developmental stage.

Catholic Health Partners earlier disclosed plans to purchase a 30 percent stake in Summa, as well as to buy Kaiser Permanente Ohio’s health plan and operate an associated medical group practice with 15 locations in northeast Ohio. Both transactions are expected to close by year’s end.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.