SARATOGA SPRINGS — One of the many goals of healthcare reform is to tip the balance of medical scales more toward prevention than cure. Two hospitals, understanding the complicated implications of such a change, have decided to bring that future to the present, under their own terms, to assure a stable transition to the coming healthcare reality.
Saratoga Hospital and Albany Medical Center have signed a letter of intent to affiliate, paving the way for a more comprehensive, cost-effective and integrated health care system. Leaders of both hospitals announced plans for the partnership on Tuesday, October 27 and expect to finalize the affiliation during 2016.
Under the terms of the letter of intent, Saratoga Hospital will retain its name, local leadership and governance, and oversight of services delivered in the community. The existing medical staff at Saratoga Hospital will remain part of the hospital.
In a news conference held at Saratoga Hospital, Saratoga Hospital President and CEO Angelo G. Calbone and Albany Medical Center President and CEO James J. Barba described a fast-approaching future that will no longer include small, autonomous hospitals on a fee-for-service system.
“We are riding a long, slow, inevitable arc of healthcare reform,” Barba said. “The new reality is pay-for-performance and population health management.”
Calbone added, “We will be held accountable in the not too distant future for the population’s health and well-being. That’s a very heavy lift for a single hospital to do. There will need to be physicians strategically placed around the region. This partnership will provide the financial security, stability, and multiple other benefits which goes into patient care.”
Calbone gave an example of Saratoga Hospital’s current developments in internal cardiology. “Albany Medical Center is providing clinical oversight, advice, direction – alone it’s just not something we could do.”
This push from insurers, government, and the public for healthcare systems to be more responsible for managing a population’s wellness comes at a time when medical technology and innovation are making major scientific leaps, a trend picking up speed as well as increasing costs. The new partnership aims to help each hospital have better access to the best of modern medicine as it comes, while simultaneously balancing prevention and cure for the region’s population.
“Population health management is creating systems around people’s wellness, especially with chronic conditions that help them manage those conditions outside of the hospital,” said Janice M. White, Chair of the Board of Trustees for Saratoga Hospital. “They are systems designed to help patients come to the hospital less often. Of course, that’s how hospitals get paid, with patients coming in. You see the challenge.” The new partnership will create a health system that will meet these future needs in a sustainable manner.
Barba described health systems from out of state that are creeping into New York looking for an increase in market share over quality local health care. “We must secure our own size and scope of autonomy and quality care with lower costs and higher efficiencies. It’s best to fix the roof while the sun is still shining, and right now it is shining brightly here at Saratoga Hospital and at Albany Medical Center. This partnership will help assure that sunshine continues, and this health system is our system, locally focused.”
“One of the primary goals of the partnership is to protect Saratoga Hospital’s future—to preserve our ability to continue to grow and provide the care our community needs and deserves,” Calbone said.
White agreed that moving now assures a smooth transition into the future that prioritizes the healthcare needs of the local region. “This is a long-term vision, not a crisis,” she said. “We’re fortunate to be in a visionary situation where we can look 5 or 10 years down the road and see that if we don’t do this now, it’ll happen anyway later.”
The planned collaboration builds on partnerships already in place. A prime example is the highly successful joint venture, Malta Med Emergent Care, in Malta. Physicians and medical teams from Saratoga Hospital and Albany Medical Center have been working there together since June 2013, providing comprehensive 24/7 urgent care and higher-level services. Another example is a collaboration, launched in 2009, to enhance stroke care by enabling real-time sharing of diagnostic information. Dozens of lives have been saved as a result.
“In addition, affiliating with Northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center—with its medical school and cutting-edge research programs—enhances the ability of our medical team and patients to access advanced options that are available only through that type of institution,” Calbone said.
For more information, go to www.saratogahospital.org. or www.amc.edu.