If the future of health care lies in creating partnerships to cut costs and provide more efficient care, Memorial Health System and Pikes Peak Cardiology Group are ahead of the curve.
PPCG is not only leasing space at Memorial Medical Office Building, but it is sharing the hospital’s catheter lab and other resources.
“We needed a new home and we’ve talked with (Memorial CEO) Dick Eitel and decided we’d both be better off if we partnered in both real estate and clinical issues,” said Bill Mantia, CEO of the cardiology group.
PPCG will occupy the floors above the health system’s new emergency department. The move will reduce “windshield time,” Mantia said — the time it takes cardiologists to drive to the emergency room from their practice.
“It makes sense to build this relationship with the hospital, instead of competing with them,” he said. “And they benefit — they’ll have up to 14 cardiologists minutes away from the ER. No other practice has the resources available to respond that quickly.”
PPCG also is working on a lease arrangement for Memorial’s catheter lab.
“We want it to be a one-stop shop,” he said. “This way, we don’t repeat assets or duplicate costs. The efficiency is a bonus, but the cost savings are also very important. We can continue to offer care to underinsured and uninsured people through this partnership.”
The cost savings also could translate into being able to hire more doctors, Mantia said.
The group is expected to move into the building by the end of October, and will lease about 54,000 square feet.
Adding to the synergy is Cardiology Diagnostics of Colorado Springs, which performs diagnostic imaging testing such as echocardiography and vascular imaging. CDCS is moving part of its office Memorial’s building.
The hospital also has entered into a similar arrangement with the Associates in General and Vascular Surgery, said Steve Schaefer, vice president of strategic development at Memorial.
Penrose-St. Francis Health Center has a similar arrangement with the Cardiology Group of Colorado Springs, but only for its catheter lab. The office is not on the Penrose campus.
The Memorial/PPCG arrangement is unusual, said Paul Rosser, lead faculty for health care management specialty in Regis University’s MBA program.
“It’s relatively new,” he said. “But conceptually, it’s a great concept. The proximity of the cardiologists to the institution is beneficial — you want the cath lab close to the inpatient hospital.”
Rosser said that as long as the doctors remain in private practice, with hospital privileges, there is no conflict with any existing law.
“The basis of this is a compromise,” he said. “The hospital’s a very clear winner in this. It’s very cost effective for the hospital, and offers some security for the doctors. Memorial has a great track record to find new ways to compete — they’ve made some good moves in a very competitive market. I just don’t see a down side with this.”
But Rosser doesn’t think the arrangement will catch on with other specialties.
“The type of procedures cardiologists do can’t compare with orthopedic procedures, which are increasingly done on an outpatient basis,” he said. “The urgent nature of what cardiologists do is what makes this arrangement work.”
Intervention specialists have no incentive to move into the hospital, particularly because many have same-day surgical centers that are profitable, he said.
“I think those types of specialists — gastroenterology, for example — would hesitate to give up that revenue,” he said. “I certainly haven’t read a lot about this being a trend.”
The move toward partnerships between hospitals and doctors in private practice is one that is driven by the marketplace, as much as by quality of care, Schaefer said.
“We explore what our needs are and what the physicians are interested in,” she said. “And we’re interested in having a dialog with many different groups, and exploring the opportunity to closely partner with them.”