“We will definitely see out-of-state buyers, probably first for Care New England and then for Lifespan,” he said. “We’ll see headquarters and CEOs in the distance. We will see losses of jobs and professional support. We’ve had that experience with the banks in Rhode Island, when the merger moved the real head office out of state, and we’ve seen downtown Providence dry up as accounting, professional, legal, and other jobs. went to Boston, Scotland and elsewhere. We would lose local control.
Whitehouse added to that list the loss of research that benefits the Rhode Island economy as research programs move offshore and new federal investment declines. Avoiding this scenario is a value in itself, he said, in addition to the many benefits that the integrated university health system presents to the state and its residents.
Dr. Timothy Babineau, President and CEO of Lifespan, used a metaphor to explain the benefits.
“Imagine the [New England] The Patriots are split into two different teams – an attacking team and a defensive team, ”he said. “They would still be good enough, but something would be lost. And that’s what we have right now. We have great, hardworking, compassionate and educated caregivers within each organization, but we are on different teams. By coming together on the same team, you are able to do things that we are not able to do today.
The CEOs of Lifespan and Care New England discussed the patient and physician benefits of integrated electronic health records. Babineau explained that while current recording systems can “talk to each other,” they need translation. Dr James E. Fanale, president and CEO of Care New England, described the challenge and said that with a shared system, providers could quickly access patient records and use them to make care decisions.
“As a clinician, I can refer a patient with a problem to Lifespan,” Fanale said. “If they can’t find the scanner I made, it’s a lot easier to repeat it, and the cost is $ 700 or $ 800. Imagine if we had a system where you didn’t have to do anything more. that… There are huge opportunities where we can collaborate, improve access and avoid duplication. ”
Lifespan, Care New England and Brown signed agreements to create an integrated university health system in February 2021. The applications are currently under review by federal regulators, who are expected to issue opinions by the start of 2022, and directors of all organizations are working with the state attorney general’s office as well as the Rhode Island Department of Health and other community leaders on the regulatory process in Rhode Island.
James Bailey, economist and assistant professor at Providence College, focused on issues surrounding price increases. If you look at healthcare mergers across the country, Bailey said, research suggests price increases, while the quality of care often remains stable. And while hospitals see cost savings, it’s not always for reasons that benefit patients – for example, hiring fewer staff at slightly lower pay. But Bailey strongly supported the economic benefits of integrated electronic health records and commented positively on transparency and proactivity from stakeholders.
“It can go wrong in a lot of ways,” Bailey said, “but I’m encouraged to see how everyone is trying to take the edge and to think of things they could realistically do to make Rhode Island happen. the exception. “
Paxson drew on his expertise as a health economist to explain why the partnership is worth what some perceive to be risks. Lifespan and Care New England are currently undersized, she said. Bringing an organization together will not only reduce costs and inefficiencies, but also enable larger and more sophisticated research programs that will have a dramatic impact on the health of patients. Life science research also has the potential to improve the health of the state’s economy, she said, citing growing biotech industries in Boston, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
She recognized that in theory, large health care systems present the risk of monopolies which can lead to cost increases. “This doesn’t necessarily have to happen” to Providence, she said, stressing the importance of proper supervisory regulation, to which health systems are already committed.
“We can do this in a way that delivers the benefits without the costs,” Paxson said.