Hospital alliance emerges in Middle, South Georgia


More than 20 hospitals in Middle and South Georgia, including nonprofit systems in Macon, Columbus, Valdosta and Tifton, have formed an alliance that aims to reduce costs, coordinate clinical information and improve the health of area residents.

The alliance, called Stratus Healthcare, also includes about 1,500 physicians, along with 23 hospitals. It bills itself as the largest hospital alliance in the Southeast.

Consolidation has accelerated among hospitals in Georgia and nationally. Stratus, however, is not a full-scale consolidation, because every hospital in the alliance will remain independent and retain local leadership.

Central Georgia Health System in Macon and Tift Regional Health System in Tifton worked to develop the partnership and recruit members, which include small rural hospitals.  

A press release said Stratus would first develop clinical guidelines, telemedicine connections, and the sharing of data on medical outcomes. Proposals for collective purchasing, an integrated clinical network and shared business resources will also be explored.

Goals include making health care more accessible to residents while lowering health costs and boosting quality of care, Ninfa Saunders, president and CEO of Central Georgia Health System, told GHN in an interview Tuesday.

It’s the member hospitals’ choice to stay independent, Saunders said. “We believe health care is local.’’

“We may do some shared equity on some projects,’’ she added.

Health care reform is leading to a search for a new payment model, Saunders said. “This is no longer the world of fee for service,’’ Saunders said. Reimbursement will focus on value – the quality of services rather than the quantity of them, she added. “That’s what is going to differentiate our alliance in many ways.’’

William Richardson, CEO and president of Tift Regional, added in a statement, “Each Stratus partner wants to add value for patients and create scale, yet realizes it could be accomplished much easier through a coordinated effort with other health care organizations.”

Stratus has not formed an accountable care organization. ACOs are formal combinations of doctors, hospitals and/or insurers that provide more coordinated care and are responsible for the cost and quality of services.

Saunders noted that ACOs focus on the Medicare population, while Stratus will look to deliver value for all types of coverage.

Russ Lipari, CEO of Validus Group, a Georgia-based health care government affairs and corporate development firm, pointed out that with such combinations of medical providers, “economies of scale will be the rule in future health care delivery.’’

The list of Stratus hospitals does not include such major South Georgia players as Phoebe Putney in Albany and the Mayo Clinic Health System in Waycross, noted Charles Goldberg, an Atlanta-based consultant for Cognosante.

The alliance, Goldberg said, may represent an effort to have local residents continue to get care at their nearby facilities, rather than going to the Mayo facility or to an Atlanta-area hospital.

“A lot of these hospitals are pretty small,’’ he said. “The thing that will make this very interesting to watch is the smaller, rural hospitals attempting to come together around medical care — to see how successful they are.’’

“We’ll have to wait and see what this all means.’’

Here is a list of Stratus hospitals:

·         Bleckley Memorial Hospital (Cochran)

Central Georgia Health System

o   Medical Center of Central Georgia (Macon)

o   Central Georgia Rehabilitation Hospital (Macon)

o   Medical Center of Peach County (Byron)

·         Coffee Regional Medical Center (Douglas)

Columbus Regional Health System

o   Columbus Regional Medical Center (Columbus)

o   Doctors Hospital (Columbus)

o   Hughston Hospital (Columbus)

·         Crisp Regional Hospital (Cordele)

·         Dodge County Hospital (Eastman)

    Houston Healthcare

o   Houston Medical Center (Warner Robins)

o   Perry Hospital (Perry)

·         Jasper Memorial Hospital (Monticello)

·         Oconee Regional Medical Center (Milledgeville)

·         Putnam General Hospital (Eatonton)

    South Georgia Medical Center Health System

o   South Georgia Medical Center (Valdosta)

o   Smith Northview Hospital (Valdosta)

o   Louis Smith Memorial Hospital (Lakeland)

o   Clinch Memorial Hospital (Homerville)

o   SGMC-Berrien Campus (Nashville)

·         Taylor Regional Hospital (Hawkinsville)

       Tift Regional Health System

o   Tift Regional Medical Center (Tifton)

o   Cook Medical Center (Adel)