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Population Health Key to Hoag, St. Joseph Health Partnership in California

Population health lately has been associated with the rise of accountable care organizations, yet two California health systems, St. Joseph Health based in Orange and the Hoag health system based in Newport Beach, have affiliated to deliver similar community services without the burden of the ACO structure.

Presbyterian Hoag and Catholic St. Joseph announced their formal affiliation this week. The agreement aligns Hoag's two acute hospitals with five of St. Joseph's 14 hospitals across the Southwest, creating a new seven-hospital entity named Covenant Health Network.

"Population health is an important strategic element of the affiliation, but we don't want to get caught up in the structure of an ACO," says Richard Afable, MD, formerly Hoag's president and CEO who was appointed Covenant's president and CEO. Dr. Afable will also become executive vice president of the Southern California region of St. Joseph Health.

Executives from both systems say they began exploring a potential partnership upon recognizing their organizations shared similar missions for charitable care for vulnerable populations and feature robust community benefit programs.

"We have a shared commitment to those who are most vulnerable in our communities," says St. Joseph Health President and CEO Deborah Proctor. "This gives us opportunities to look at the best way to serve those that need to be served."

The partners' goal is to "provide not only for the acute problems, but also for the ongoing problems for the population within our community, and that requires a certain ability to integrate care across a wide geography," Ms. Proctor says.

"Our intent is to improve care, improve coordination and collaboration among our providers," Dr. Afable says. "We're all very cognizant of what's happening in healthcare generally," he adds, referring to the movement through healthcare reform that promotes integrated delivery models and value-based payment for quality care. He says Covenant will begin offering new services not previously offered by either system, and develop and expand existing programs to meet growing needs for the larger patient base. An emphasis will be placed on the most prevalent conditions in their community, including cancer and chronic conditions like diabetes. Learning from those efforts will spill over into the systems' other facilities outside the Covenant affiliation, Ms. Proctor and Dr. Afable say.

To continuously improve clinical quality, Ms. Proctor says, "We're going to make the necessary investments, but we're also going to invest in cultural and organizational improvement" to support the community at large, beyond the four walls of the care facilities. "We're going to be promoting that in a meaningful way," she adds.

Dr. Afable says that constructing or adding new facilities is not an important element of the affiliation, but technology will be, including mobile medical care and remote presence. That's not only more efficient, but it puts more control in the hands of patients to engage them in taking charge of their own health. He says we are moving into an age where people want to take a greater initiative in their healthcare, and Covenant is poised to help deliver that to them.

More Articles on Hospital Affiliations:

Jefferson Regional Officially Joins Highmark's System
Hoag, St. Joseph Health in California Finalize Deal to Form Covenant Health
Elbert Memorial Hospital in Georgia Approves Affiliation With AnMed Health

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