PeaceHealth, UW Medicine pursue potential healthcare 'alliance'

UW Medicine and PeaceHealth on May 20 signed a letter of intent to create a strategic affiliation to provide patients with access to comprehensive care in the Pacific Northwest and to cooperate on medical training at UW and PeaceHealth locations.

The letter of intent, dated May 20, is expected to be followed up by definitive agreements by Sept. 30, 2013. According to the press release, the two organizations will remain legally separate and independent; system governance will not be affected; and government regulatory approval is not required.

PeaceHealth is the owner and operator of Peace Island Medical Center in Friday Harbor. Peace Island Medical Center, which opened in November, 2012, was constructed with a $20 million capital contribution from PeaceHealth and $10 million in private donations, mostly from island residents. The San Juan County Hospital District contributes $1 million per year from property taxes to PIMC operations.

“The strategic affiliation between PeaceHealth and UW Medicine offers significant benefits to people in our geographic region due to the opportunity to provide the full continuum of care – primary through quaternary levels – more seamlessly and with a unique patient experience,” said Peter Adler, Chief Strategy Officer for PeaceHealth.  Quaternary care is the highest level of care for services that are the most advanced and specialized.

According to the joint press release, the organizations will also work together to develop and expand community-based training sites for UW School of Medicine students and trainees in communities served by PeaceHealth. The affiliation intends to improve care delivery and respond changes needed to implement health care reform.

Neither the joint press release nor Adler referred to current disputes PeaceHealth and other Catholic-based health care systems are facing regarding restrictions on the provision of reproductive services and end-of-life services addressed in the Catholic bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. UW Medicine, as a public institution, does not subscribe to or follow the Ethical and Religious Directives.

The letter of intent outlines opportunities the organizations could pursue together, including performance improvement initiatives to reduce costs and clinical programming to increase access to specialized services such as cardiovascular care, high-risk obstetrics and neonatology, cancer care, behavioral health and neurosciences.

“PeaceHealth selected UW Medicine to be its preferred health system for complex tertiary and quaternary care in the Seattle area,” said Alan Yordy, President and Chief Mission Officer for PeaceHealth. “This will give our patients enhanced access to services that we do not provide.”

The press release says the affiliation is “a huge step forward in meeting the needs of the whole patient as well as whole communities more effectively. In its role as the region’s only fully comprehensive health care organization covering all levels of patient care and serving as the educational institution for a five-state region (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho), UW Medicine will continue to serve patients from all communities, hospitals and clinics to meet their needs for complex tertiary and quaternary care.”


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