Two months after launch, Emory Healthcare and Kaiser Permanente say their new collaboration is working well for both sides.
Part of the evidence is in patient volume: Emory’s two “core’’ hospitals covered by the agreement are seeing many more Kaiser members.
The nonprofit Kaiser, unlike in other markets, does not operate a hospital in metro Atlanta. But the collaboration, launched in late October, is allowing Kaiser’s medical “playbook’’ to be used for its members at Emory University Hospital Midtown and Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. Those two hospitals are the designated facilities for Kaiser doctors and patients.
Kaiser said the set-up with Emory differs from the arrangement it used to have with Piedmont and Northside, because Kaiser had to work under those two hospitals’ guidelines when it had patients in their facilities.
“We brought in our IT, case management and physicians’’ to the two Emory hospitals, Jim Simpson, president of Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, said late last week.
Kaiser still has contracts for obstetrics and some other services at Northside, and for pediatric care at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. And Piedmont Athens Regional serves Kaiser members in Athens.
Dr. Jonathan Lewin, CEO of the nonprofit Emory Healthcare, told GHN last week that Emory Saint Joseph’s and Emory Midtown increased their bed and operating room capacity shortly before the contract took effect. The intent was to prevent overflow of Kaiser patients into other hospitals.
“We have sufficient new capacity,’’ Lewin said.
Kaiser’s Simpson said that under the previous arrangement, “we had struggled with the availability of beds.’’
The collaboration has also brought more visits to Emory physician specialists. Such specialty work could involve complex heart or cancer care.
Emory and Kaiser each talk about sharing practices and medical protocols in the collaboration.
Both organizations have been in growth mode. Kaiser has increased its membership to about 350,000 members, up from about 239,000 members five years earlier.
Emory recently acquired DeKalb Medical hospitals in Decatur and Lithonia.
“In recent years, Emory had added bed capacity, and the Kaiser Permanente partnership affords an opportunity to grow their business,’’ said Chris Kane, a consultant with Progressive Healthcare.
“The Kaiser relationship is consistent with Emory’s ongoing investments in their community hospital portfolio of assets,’’ Kane said. “Nationwide, academic medical centers are perceived as conservative in their strategies. Emory has defied the stereotype with decisive actions.”
Emory’s Lewin said the Kaiser patient influx is part of record hospital volume across its system.
“We’ve been very busy,’’ Lewin said. He pointed to an upsurge in patients choosing elective surgery in December before facing a new deductible this year.
While the partnership has been positive from a revenue standpoint for Emory, Lewin said, the financials “are not the reason to do this. … We do see ourselves as mission-driven.’’
The partnership can lead to improved health for patients, more coordination of care, and more opportunities for medical providers’ education, Lewin said.
Kaiser’s Simpson added, “It has been a very successful transition. We’re excited about what we can do with Emory in the future for our integrated care model for the benefit of our members.’’
Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News