Headlines in the paper recently announced the merger of HealthPartners Insurance and Park Nicollet Clinics. The combined entity will operate under HealthPartners name, and patients and members are promised this will not affect their care or options with providers. "The merger will help the new entity control costs while still providing members and patients with total-care options, the group said. " This merger, which puts them as the 2nd largest hospital system behind the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, is another example of what is and will be the current trend to meet the demands of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Insurance companies and health providers are working together as funding cuts and elements of the ACA pressure doctors to get patients healthy for less money. Small clinics and rural health systems are looking to bigger organizations with the money to invest in the latest technology. One such smaller pediatric specialist recently joined forces with Children's Hospitals and Clinics of MN, because of fear of going alone and facing all the challenges in the next few years. Howard Epstein of the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI) says "this sword of Damocles of unsustainable health care spending is hanging overhead, and everyone is trying to figure out how to get a handle on it".
The concern by some is that larger health care organizations could gain too much power to control the market and raise prices. Many in the industry however, argue that this emerging landscape will offer patients the ability to get better coordinated care through one provider. Integration and consolidation gives patients access to a system that can give end-to-end care, rather than hoping in and out of different systems. Dr Penney Wheeler with Allina Health says "fragmentation is the enemy of how people can receive quality services", citing a story of a paralyzed woman with Guillain-Barre' Syndrome, who bounced from hospital to nursing home back to hospital, before she finally got the appropriate comprehensive care at the Courage Center. Allina's Sister Kenny Rehabilitative Institute and Courage Center, also recently merged. You can expect to see to see more of this trend in coming months.