Beth Israel and CHA Sign Clinical and Academic Affiliation Agreement

Executives at the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BI) were excited to announce this week an agreement between the two to form a clinical and academic affiliation – resulting in a major shakeup to the makeup of the local healthcare market.

The move will combine resources, give both a bigger footprint and give physicians access to better risk insurance.

“We’re really excited about it,” said CHA Chief Executive Patrick Wardell on Tuesday. “We’ve been going after that for some time and we feel good that it’s at a point where the agreement has been signed and we can get to implementing it.”

Said BI Chief Executive Dr. Kevin Tabb, “Cambridge Health Alliance has a proud history of providing quality care to its communities. It is exactly the kind of quality community healthcare provider we embrace as vital to our growing network of hospitals and physicians. This affiliation represents an important part of our strategy of working with community health care providers to deliver the right care in the right place at the right time.”

Wardell indicated that while CHA has improved the Whidden Hospital and clinics in the surrounding cities of Everett, Chelsea and Revere, and that the affiliation with BI will only make those facilities better.

“We want people to know the Whidden Hospital, which is not the Whidden of 20 years ago but is much better since the state had us take it over, is now operated by two organizations with remarkable perceptions in the community and people ought to give it a try. Our Emergency Room visits are way up from where they were. We expect this will increase elective visit traffic as well…We’re not looking at the CHA being subordinate to Beth Israel. Their physicians are on faculty at Harvard Medical School and so are our physicians. We’re approaching this as a partnership of equals.”

He said there would probably be some shuffling of the facility names, and they are currently weighing how to express that BI is involved in the Whidden and other CHA facilities without becoming “overly wordy.”

For patients, Wardell said there would be increased access and a larger footprint for the organization.

“BI and CHA have a pretty substantial footprint in Chelsea, Everett and Revere already,” he said. “I think what people will see is more availability of specialists and a partnership between the two organizations reaching out further into the community to provide primary care physician services. These three communities – with the exception of probably Revere – are tremendously underserved for primary care doctor access related to the population…We’re expecting patients from the BI on the Chelsea side will now go to the Whidden for care.”

In addition, the medical record system will be much more seamless, he said.

“If someone is a patient at the Family Medical Center in Everett or Revere and is referred to a subspecialist at BI in Chelsea or elsewhere, that specialist will have immediate access to the patient’s health records,” he said. “That will make for really integrated care.”

Physicians and staff at both organizations also will be able to monitor all jointly managed patients’ clinical histories, including test results, medication histories, and Emergency visits, improving accuracy and health outcomes while reducing duplicate testing and lowering costs.

Implementation of the affiliation is pending review by the state’s Health Policy Commission as required under Massachusetts’ 2012 health care reform law.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, CHA and its physicians will join the Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization (BIDCO), an accountable care organization formed by BI and Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at BI earlier this year. BIDCO will become the primary physician contracting organization for CHA, allowing physicians to share risk and invest in the infrastructure and care management systems necessary to manage populations of patients and coordinate their care under a global payment structure.

Approximately 20 percent of CHA’s primary care physicians will continue to be part of the Mount Auburn Cambridge Independent Practice Association (MACIPA).

CHA and BI, which are both Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals, will collaborate on academic teaching and research to improve patient care and foster the next generation of medical professionals. CHA will continue to serve as a surgical rotation site for BIDMC surgery residents, while CHA residents will continue to perform cardiology and family medicine rotations at BI.

BI residents in emergency medicine will also have training rotations at CHA. The organizations will explore other opportunities to enhance their respective residency and fellowship programs.

Wardell indicated that CHA will keep its 19-person Board of Directors intact.

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