Baptist Health and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences announced Tuesday that they have expanded their partnership to offer a wider range of educational opportunities and deliver clinical care more efficiently.
The alliance, which is not a merger, will focus on educating new physicians and providing enhanced but more efficient clinical services and population health management initiatives. It adds to a list of areas in which the two health care organizations already collaborate.
"Arkansas faces a wide range of significant health challenges, including obesity, cancer, heart disease, mental health and premature death," UAMS Interim Chancellor Stephanie Gardner said. "Through this enhanced alliance, UAMS and Baptist Health can better help address those challenges to improve the health and well-being of Arkansans."
Baptist Health's board of trustees approved the alliance and its components on Thursday. It will go before the University of Arkansas board at its next meeting on Sept. 7-8.
"We saw more opportunities ahead of us," Baptist Health CEO Troy Wells told Arkansas Business on Tuesday. He said previous areas of collaboration between UAMS and Baptist had been successful, and the two were eager to be public about what's coming next.
"Success breeds more success," he said.
In the education field, UAMS and Baptist Health said they will increase the number of students and other trainees by "creating broader opportunities for teaching and learning." In the area of graduate medical education, the two aim to launch new physician residency programs, beginning with internal and family medicine at the Baptist Health Medical Center-North Little Rock campus.
Gardner said the goal is to add 100 residency positions in central Arkansas over the next five to 10 years.
In the area of clinical services and population health management, the two said they are "evaluating ways to maximize existing and new resources to enhance health care quality, safety, service and access while reducing costs."
A key piece of the initiative is the new Baptist Health/UAMS Accountable Care Alliance. Starting next year, the alliance will coordinate "effective, high-quality care for patients receiving Medicare." The program will initially serve 50,000 Arkansans.
The hospitals said the Accountable Care Alliance "will work with Medicare to make sure health care providers have a more complete picture of a patient's health to deliver the right care at the right time and avoid unnecessarily duplicating medical tests."
The two are also working with Arkansas Children's Hospital, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Bost Inc. about forming a program called Arkansas Advanced Care to serve Medicaid recipients with behavioral health and developmental disability needs. That program would operate as a Provider-owned Arkansas Shared Savings Entity (PASSE) under legislation established this year by the Arkansas General Assembly. The boards of each organization will have to approve the program.
Baptist and UAMS already operate a number of partnerships.
Joint initiatives include services in physical medicine and rehabilitation; vascular surgery; maternal-fetal medicine; and antimicrobial stewardship. The two also collaborate on emergency medicine and orthopaedics at Baptist Health Medical Center-Conway.
Baptist contracts with UAMS for some services, including the emergency medicine and orthopaedic services in Conway and the vascular surgery and maternal fetal medicine services in Little Rock. UAMS spokeswoman Leslie Taylor said that in the coming months, the two will work out details of the alliance, including compensation and reimbursement, which "will be decided on an initiative by initiative basis."
On Tuesday, Wells said expanding the alliance signaled a formal commitment by both health care centers to continue collaboration. The deal also establishes a framework to govern the relationship.
The move comes as Baptist, UAMS and other health care entities aim to cut costs and deliver health care more efficiently. Other hospitals in Arkansas have formed partnerships of varying shapes and sizes.
In 2012 and 2013, UAMS and St. Vincent Health System pondered a strategic alliance that could have included shared services. But the two could not reach an agreement and the talks ended.