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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Business

Providence, Group Health ally as largest physicians’ group

Group Health Cooperative and Providence Health Care are forming a new company to provide primary medical care in Spokane, creating the area’s largest physician organization, the two providers said Wednesday.

The joint announcement summarized the general intent of the alliance, said Providence spokesman Joe Robb. But many of the operational details – including the selection of a leadership team – have to be worked out, he said.

The result is not a merger but a medical limited liability corporation with a name that has not yet been chosen, Robb said.

When the operation launches later this year, current Providence and Group Health facilities will continue as they are, said Group Health spokeswoman Kelly Stanford. Patients will be able to remain with their current physicians and clinics.

The primary goal is to create an organization with more efficient operations that will provide coordinated medical care to current patients, Robb said.

The longer-term objective is to broaden the effort to include more physicians and patients across the region, and to provide an appealing option for insurance companies and employers when they shop for medical contracts, he said.

One result, noted a news release, is that Group Health providers and medical centers may be available to patients with insurance other than Group Health.

The release also said the operation will emphasize information sharing among practitioners and a focus on “evidence-based medicine.” Group Health and Providence Medical Group are expected to use the same electronic medical records system by the end of 2013.

The move to a cooperative alliance is part of the national move toward health care reform, as hospitals and doctors shift from a patient-volume to a value-based delivery system, said Robb.

If the strategy works, the result will be a larger market share for the providers and for Group Health and Providence, Robb said.

“This will put us in a stronger position in the marketplace based on delivering value-based, more efficient health care services,” Robb said.

In late 2009, Providence’s main competitor in the region, Community Health Systems Inc., stunned the medical community by acquiring Rockwood Clinic, at a price tag of $50 million. That acquisition was also described as a way to create better-integrated health care.

The new Providence-Group Health organization will include nearly 400 providers from the Spokane area, including all doctors, specialists and nurses from Group Health centers and all 50 of Providence Medical Group’s area clinics.

Another part of the group will be the 55 practitioners from 14 area Columbia Medical Associates clinics. Group Health acquired Columbia Medical Associates in 2011.

The new organization will start by providing services to Providence employees and Group Health patients who seek care from providers working at Providence Medical Group, Group Health or Columbia Medical Associates clinics, beginning in January.

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