Competing Health Systems Come Together To Solve Mutual Problems

In most big cities, there are several competing systems that battle for patients and managed care contracts.  Ordinarily, these systems would be loathe to let their guard down and work together.

In Philadephia, however, competitors have come together to solve some difficult problems that affect them all.

One participant in the group is Joel Betesh, MD, medical informatics officer at the Pennsylvania Hospital and chair of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. He serves on the enterprise-wide informatics committee and recently spoke at the AMIA Clinical Informatics virtual conference.

In his remarks, he noted that competition often prevents health systems from working together and that this has an impact on patient care, according to an article in Healthcare Innovation. “But the reality is that when the same patient obtains care from adjacent health systems, it is in the patient’s best interest and everyone’s best interest to work together to deliver care as seamlessly as possible.”

In that spirit, three area health systems came together in 2018, and all three went live with the same EHR vendor. In doing so, they joined six others. This made it a total of nine health systems using the same EHR, embracing a total of 17 hospitals.  Leaders with the health systems felt that bringing the health system CIOs and CMIOs and Assistant CMIOs together would be valuable.

The process of working with peers in other health systems began by finding topics of mutual interest, including sharing records with each other. Members of the group decided to accomplish this by automatically opting in all patients to free sharing with the other participating systems and communicating with each other via Direct.

Another field of inquiry involved sharing information-driven by EHR features such as medication reconciliation, prescription drug monitoring, and sharing data on sexual orientation and gender identity. The health system leaders also looked at the potential use of new features including real-time prescription benefits and CancelRx, which ensures that if Penn Medicine canceled a prescription in its EHR, that information would get transmitted to the relevant pharmacy.

Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic underway, the health systems have engaged in intense collaboration on workflow and sharing data on COVID-19 results.

After spending a couple of years working on their collaboration, leaders with the nine health systems are happy with this model and recommend that other systems adopt this model as well. “We encourage you to reach out to [other] systems, said J.T. Howell, MD, associate CMIO, ambulatory EHR, at the University of Pennsylvania health system. ”Whether they are on the same software or not, because there is a lot that can be accomplished through collaboration.”

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.