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Cleveland Clinic and parent company of Lutheran Hospital begin partnership

Impact and timing in Fort Wayne uncertain

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 8:37 am

A new partnership between the Cleveland Clinic and the company that owns Lutheran Health Network has great potential, but it's too soon to know how it may affect Lutheran Hospital, hospital officials said Monday.

Last week, Cleveland Clinic and Community Health Systems announced a partnership designed to build on the dramatically different strengths of the organization.

The Cleveland Clinic is the 11th-largest hospital in the United States, with more than 1,200 beds and a reputation as one of the best hospitals in the country for cardiovascular care. CHS has many more beds – about 20,000 – but those are spread among 135 hospitals in 29 states. As Wayne Smith, chief executive officer of CHS noted Monday, 80 of the CHS hospitals are the only hospital in their city or town.

The partnership includes three main areas of cooperation:

Sharing data on patient diagnoses, conditions, treatment and outcomes. This will build on a program already under way at Cleveland Clinic called “Quality Alliance.” The goal of this data analysis, Smith said, is to “figure out the best clinical pathway for a patient diagnosis” and draw on the experience of thousands to improve patient outcomes.

Cardiovascular services. Cleveland Clinic's Heart & Vascular Institute will assess some CHS hospitals for the opportunity to apply the Cleveland Clinic experience and expertise to improving care in the smaller hospitals.

Clinical and Operational Services. The organizations will compare experiences and techniques in areas such as telemedicine initiatives, complex care coordination and other practices in care and cost containment.

How soon might this affect Lutheran Hospital or other Lutheran Health System facilities? Smith said CHS is still planning how to make the most of the partnership. Not many specifics are available yet.

“We haven't decided that Indiana is even going to be in it for a while,” Smith said. At CHS hospitals that do get in on the partnership with Cleveland Clinic, the first changes staff are likely to notice will be collecting data for the Quality Alliance, he said.

Smith said that many of the smaller hospitals affiliated with CHS are not as “sophisticated” as Lutheran and do not provide care as complex as facilities in Fort Wayne can.

Joe Dorko, the CEO of Lutheran Health Network, said Monday that Lutheran and other hospitals in northeast Indiana system will still be guided by the goals of improving clinical outcomes, enhancing patient experience and being good stewards of resources.

Smith said the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, provided some impetus for the partnership. That law created an array of rewards and penalties intended to make hospitals more accountable for costs and patient outcomes. In fact, Smith said the CHS-Cleveland Clinic partnership wouldn't have happened five years ago, before the passage of the Affordable Care Act.