Hospital systems in Akron, as everywhere else, are positioning themselves to navigate a rapidly changing landscape for the coverage and delivery of health care, an evolution accelerated during the past two years by passage of the Affordable Care Act. With the announcement Thursday that it has found a partner to its liking in Catholic Health Partners, Summa Health System substantially alters the dynamics of health care both locally and across Northern Ohio.
Summa was months in the market searching for a larger operator to come aboard as a minority owner. The confidence of Summa administrators is reassuring that they bring to the table a partner operating on the same wavelength, a nonprofit committed to efficient and effective care, to charitable care and to improving the general health of the local population. As Summit County’s largest employer, Summa is a critical economic presence. As such, its firm commitment to retain local control and majority ownership in this new partnership system is equally reassuring.
The partnership promises to put Summa in good position to ride the profound changes expected as economic forces and federal reforms reshape a less-than-efficient health-care system. The Cincinnati-based Catholic Health Partners, a 24-hospital operation with $5.6 billion in assets, brings much organizational and financial strength, advancing a statewide dimension to the health-care market. The access to capital could serve as a crucial stabilizer for the smaller local system as medical payment structures change with reforms.
For its part, Summa has every indication of being a sturdy partner, helping CHP extend its reach further into the competitive Northeast Ohio health market, its SummaCare insurance arm an asset at a time hospital systems explore the potential business in the new health insurance exchanges.
Health-care providers increasingly must operate as innovators, able to deliver care that is comprehensive, of high quality and at reasonable cost and do so on a scale that reflects rising demand from the expansion of health coverage to millions more Americans. With the focus on patient outcomes, hospital systems also are under greater pressure to elevate their management of health data, whether it is maintaining accessible patient records, monitoring quality or sharing best practices.
These are challenging times, requiring all hospitals to adjust or sink. Summa and Catholic Health Partners both have shown encouraging readiness to take up the challenge, adopting innovations such accountable care organizations and medical homes. The partnership is one more survival step in a changing landscape.