Saturday, July 13, 2024

Rural Minnesota Hospitals Form Headwaters High-Value Network for Improved Care

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Nineteen rural Minnesota hospitals and their over 50 clinics have united to create a clinically integrated network (CIN) named the Headwaters High-Value Network, which will serve more than 750,000 people. This initiative stitches together the services of these independent clinics, allowing Minnesotans to coordinate their care across multiple sites. Collectively, the member groups employ about 9,000 people and generate $1.3 billion in annual net revenue.

The network’s creation is driven by the goal of helping these clinics control rising healthcare costs through reduced administrative burdens and shared services. By pooling resources and expertise, the network aims to streamline operations and enhance patient care. The CIN is in discussions with other interested rural Minnesota hospitals and expects to grow shortly.

Ken Westman, chair of the Headwaters board and CEO of Aitkin-based Riverwood Healthcare Center, emphasized the importance of maintaining the independence of rural hospitals while fostering interdependence. “We believe that helping rural hospitals to remain independent is the best way to serve the healthcare needs of our communities,” Westman stated. “Our independence is strengthened by our interdependence. The more we can work together, the better we can care for our communities.”

Headwaters Network Enhances Rural Hospitals Collaboration and Efficiency

The CIN will offer a range of shared services, including tools for population health management, data analytics, and care management, which are expected to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the member hospitals. The network’s seven-member board, comprised of CEOs from the member hospitals, will oversee the partnership’s clinical and quality initiatives. Additionally, a clinical integration committee, staffed by a medical practitioner from each member hospital, will be formed to guide these efforts.

Westman highlighted the strong collaborative spirit among the network’s members, which he believes will help sustain the independence of rural hospitals over the long term. “Everyone involved with Headwaters has a great sense of collaboration, a high ‘collaborative IQ,’ that will help us sustain independent hospitals for the long term,” he said.

Cibolo Health, which will manage the network’s day-to-day operations, pitches itself as the healthcare equivalent of “farmers’ cooperatives.” This approach is designed to give member hospitals the scale needed to gain leverage in negotiations with health plans and large health systems. The advisory group also points to the financial challenges facing many of the nation’s rural hospitals, with about half losing money from their operations and a fifth at risk of closure, according to a report by healthcare advisory firm Chartis.


Headwaters High-Value Network: Enhancing Rural Healthcare Collaboration and Quality

The formation of the Headwaters High-Value Network marks Cibolo’s second rural CIN, following the Rough Rider High-Value Network established in North Dakota last fall. Although the Rough Rider network reaches about a third of the patients compared to Headwaters, it includes 23 hospitals and 41 clinics. Both networks aim to reduce administrative burdens, bolster care collaboration, and improve care delivery through member-represented clinical integration committees.

Dr. A. Clinton MacKinney, Cibolo Health’s chief medical officer, emphasized the importance of the clinical integration committee in maintaining high-quality care and supporting physicians. “Pooling the clinical know-how of our members through the Clinical Integration Committee ensures continued access to high-quality care that strengthens the vitality of rural communities,” MacKinney stated. “The committee relieves some of the burden on physicians and provides a supportive peer community, which will help our member hospitals recruit and retain clinicians.”

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Overall, the Headwaters High-Value Network represents a significant step towards enhancing the quality and coordination of healthcare services in rural Minnesota, ensuring that these independent hospitals can continue to serve their communities effectively and sustainably.


Resource: Fierce Healthcare, June 27, 2024

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