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Phoebe Putney Health System announces consultation partnership

Phoebe Putney announces a partnership with xG Health Solutions based in Maryland

Officials at Phoebe Putney Health System have announced a partnership with Geisinger and xG Health Solutions as part of a consultation relationship. (Albany Herald file photo)

Officials at Phoebe Putney Health System have announced a partnership with Geisinger and xG Health Solutions as part of a consultation relationship. (Albany Herald file photo)

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Phoebe Putney Health System CEO Joel Wernick, right, address a group in the lobby of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital as Dr. Earl Steinberg, CEO of xG Health Solutions, looks on. Phoebe officials announced on Tuesday they would be partnering with the Maryland company as part of a consultation relationship. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

ALBANY — Officials with Phoebe Putney Health System announced Tuesday they are entering into a consultation relationship with an out-of-state firm as a means to transform health care delivery methods.

The partnership is with xG Health Systems, based in Columbia, Md., which offers expertise to health systems across the country. The company is a Geisinger Health System affiliate. Geisinger, based in Danville, Pa., is considered to be a national model for how to improve outcomes and reduce health care costs, Phoebe officials say.

“Phoebe is committed to improving patient care and making healthcare more affordable,” said Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick in a news release on the partnership. “Our goal is to perform in the top 10 percent of all hospitals in quality, outcomes, and patient satisfaction. For us to continue to serve our community’s health care needs, we must innovate and evolve. This newly formed partnership demonstrates Phoebe’s commitment.”

In a news conference on Tuesday morning formally announcing the partnership, Wernick noted the arrangement comes as a part of how the organization is responding to the changing landscape in the health care industry. It was done, he said, as part of a three-tiered plan for cost reduction within Phoebe Putney — which has included non-labor expense reductions, labor productivity optimization and process improvement and re-engineering initiatives.

This partnership, he said, falls within the third tier and is meant to allow Phoebe to utilize accumulated knowledge from a company that has polished its health care delivery methods from a cost-efficiency standpoint with the goal maintaining access to care at a lower cost — and is doing so over an ongoing process with a partner it appears to have a lot in common with.

“Danville is a very rural part of Pennsylvania, but like Phoebe, it has services you don’t expect to see in rural America,” Wernick said.

The affiliate company is the exclusive provider of Geisinger’s intellectual property. Phoebe officials say they will be working with xG Health to develop a strategic plan and road map for moving from a fee-for-service model to a value-oriented care delivery model and for transitioning from a focus on treating single episodes of acute illness to managing population health.

Officials say managing population health goes beyond treating patients in need of immediate care and instead uses data to support coordination of all aspects of each patient’s care from wellness and preventative care to management of chronic conditions, and that such initiatives are necessary for health systems to thrive under new performance-based payment arrangements where providers will be paid based on the quality, not amount, of care delivered to patients.

The xG company is expected to evaluate Phoebe’s current organizational structure, alignment of goals toward value-orientation, population health management capabilities, clinical and economic performance and best opportunities to improve quality and efficiency of care. Experts are anticipated to assess the health system as a whole and provide a deeper analysis of its cardiovascular service line to make the program better, while the team will also talk to area payers and employers about Phoebe’s interest in value re-engineering and explore opportunities to establish new payment arrangements that are beneficial to all parties.

“xG Health is delighted to have the opportunity to help Phoebe Putney Health System identify ways to improve the quality and reduce the cost of care it delivers,” said Dr. Earl Steinberg, Geisinger’s executive vice president of innovation and CEO of xG Health, in a statement. “We are extremely impressed by the commitment of Phoebe’s Board and executive and clinical leadership to re-engineer how the health system can deliver greater value to the patients, payers, employers and communities it serves.”

Steinberg said Tuesday that xG was created out of a desire to expand Geisinger’s mission by sharing with other health systems what it has done to help them thrive, and that making things more efficient within a health care setting is critical not just in Southwest Georgia, but on a national level.

“xG is comparatively a small company, but it devoted to a mission of improvement,” he said. “We try to select health systems who we think will be successful … We have been spending several months learning as much as possible about Phoebe. (We will look at) ways to redesign care and keep people out of the hospital, how to generate data internally and get data from payers.

“We are delighted to work with Phoebe and work together for Phoebe to serve as an example nationally.”

Nancy Rizzo, senior vice president of strategic clinical market development and managing partner of Geisinger Consulting Services for Geisinger Health System, will be among those on the ground in Albany. In her third visit so far to the area, Rizzo said Tuesday there were a number of similarities between Geisinger and Phoebe in terms of environment and commitment, and that the personnel on all levels at Phoebe were driven and open toward making the partnership work.

“It is very early, but as we move forward, I think we will be encouraged,” she said.

Officials say re-engineering at Geisinger to patient care has produced an 18 percent reduction in hospitalizations, a 36 percent reduction in re-admissions, a 19 percent improvement in patient perception of care coordination and improved clinical outcomes at a reduced cost of care. Partnerships between xG Health Solutions and other health systems have yielded a more than 16 percent in reductions in admissions and re-admissions and an 8 percent reduction in emergency room visits while lowering health care cost, officials say.