Mission Health President and CEO Ron Paulus talks about the merger. (Photo by Caitlin Byrd)
CarePartners and Mission Health went public with the future of their working relationship today when leaders from the two health care providers announced that CarePartners will seek an affiliation with Mission Health — and work on this affiliation is already under way.
CarePartners and Mission Health signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding today, April 4. According to CarePartners President and CEO Tracy Buchanan, if all goes well, the affiliation with the state’s sixth-largest health system will be official by October. However, she was quick to note that the agreement was borne out of collaboration, not conflict.
“We’re not in dire straits financially. This is not a bailout,” she says.
Instead, Buchanan points to barriers in the health care industry. “For instance, getting information about patients is difficult in this environment,” she says. “We’ll be able to more freely access that information to plan the pathways of care for our patients. We’ll have more timely information. We can give information back to Mission in a more accessible way.”
Mission Health CEO and President Ron Paulus echoes these sentiments. “Right now, typically one out of every five Medicare patients is readmitted to the hospital within 30 days,” he shares. “Now we’ll be able to joint clinical programming together to care for those transitions to make sure it’s seamless. Our doctors, over time, will be able to access the electronic information about that patient no matter whose database it’s sitting in. We can combine our efforts to provide the most effective care. This is a natural, evolutionary step.”
Paulus says that calling the agreement a merger would be “one way to describe it,” and that the next step to finalizing the merger includes a due-diligence process that will begin immediately. At the end of that process, which Buchanan estimates will be in late July, a contractual agreement will be finalized.
Once this agreement is complete, CarePartners will be an affiliate of Mission Health, much like other hospitals in the Mission Health System. But CarePartners will retain its name and branding. A local nonprofit, CarePartners currently serves close to 3,000 patients each day and specializes in post-acute care in services, ranging from home health to prosthetics.
Paulus notes that by joining forces, the two organizations will more effectively deliver health care to the people of Western North Carolina.
“We only have a modest overlap around what we do, primarily around physical therapy. Over the next number of weeks and months, we’ll be doing some joint strategic planning as part of the due diligence to figure out the best way to work those things together,” he reports. “As health care providers, we have to take responsibility for a population of individuals. That population is not hospital-centric, it’s not doctor-centric and it’s not home-care-centric: It’s the right service at the right time in the right place for that patient with the highest value of care at the lowest possible cost.”
In the immediate future, Buchanan says CarePartners patients won’t notice a change in the delivery of services. But in the future, she says, “We really think that what patients will see is smoother transitions of care and higher quality care in the long run.”