CareUnity News July 2014 - Journal of Business

July 3, 2014 - Providence-Group Health joint venture advances: Partners announce name, brand for care organization

Kim Crompton - Journal of Business

Group Health Cooperative and Providence Health Care say they have established a name—CareUnity—and a brand for an “accountable care organization” they founded jointly in 2012, and already are starting to see some care delivery improvements as a result of the collaboration.

Executives for the two big nonprofit care providers here say the name and brand identity are intended to convey the vision they share to deliver coordinated, seamless, and affordable care. Their desire with the two-year-old organization, they say, also is to accept accountability for the clinical and financial outcomes, as well as the overall health status, of the patients they serve.

The creation of CareUnity is an outgrowth of the health care reform movement and the need to fix what the executives describe as a broken health care system.

The collaboration, they say, hasn’t involved any physical merging of offices, employees, or services, but rather has focused on improving “clinical pathways” for patients through enhanced communication between Providence and Group Health doctors and other medical specialists.

“There’s an absolute intent to collaborate to create a unique patient experience,” says Kelly Stanford, president of CareUnity and vice president of Eastern and Central Washington for Group Health.

Elaine Couture, Providence Health Care’s CEO and chairwoman for the CareUnity board of directs, says, “It’s one of the things we’ve been working on to make sure our community doesn’t go broke spending dollars on health care. It’s just been a great new evolution of how we’re providing health care in the community, and everybody is working hard at it.”

She adds, “We’re seeing results, so we’re pretty excited about that.”

She and Stanford say the organization, for example, has seen initial signs of care improvement involving back pain sufferers and the diabetic population here. 

In a press release announced the new CareUnity name and brand, Couture says, “To offer a better patient experience and make care more affordable, we must change the way providers communicate, coordinate, share financial risk and empower patients. CareUnity focuses on adhering to established, evidence-based guidelines and finding care pathways and process that are proven to provide the best health outcomes for patients.

Group Health and Providence claim CareUnity is the region’s most comprehensive accountable care organization, or ACO, offering—through its respective providers—a full continuum of care from health education, physicians visits, and hospitalization to rehabilitation therapy, home health services, and end-of-life services. They also tout it as the largest ACO, providing access to nearly 700 physicians and advanced practitioners.

CareUnity includes health care providers from Group Health; Providence Medical Group, which is the physician services organization within Providence Health Care; and Columbia Medical Associates, a Spokane-based physicians’ group that Group Health acquired three years ago.

Pivotal to the success of the coordinated physician group, Group Health and Providence say, are nearly 200 primary care providers who serve as the “medical home” for patients throughout the region. Those providers, they say, coordinate patient care among specialists, urgent care centers, and hospitals, including Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital and Providence Holy Family Hospital.

Through the participating physician groups, CareUnity essentially coordinates care for more than 50,000 patients in the Spokane area, Group Health and Providence say. They say that while may ACOs have been set up to serve only Medicare populations, CareUnity and its providers have value-based contracts with Medicaid, Medicare, and commercial purchasers.

Providence Health Care is an Eastern Washington network that, along with Sacred Heart and Holy Family, includes hospitals in Colville and Chewelah, Wash., and a number of other organizations that provide home health, assisted living, adult day health, and skilled nursing care services. The network also includes Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories LLC.  

Providence Health Care is part of Renton, Wash.-based Providence Health & Services, a Sisters of Providence-sponsored nonprofit ministry that’s among the largest health care systems in the country. That overall health system employs more than 65,000 people in five states.

Group Health Cooperative, together with its Group Health Options Inc. and KPS Health Plans subsidiaries, provides health coverage to more than 601,000 residents of Washington and North Idaho.