Highline Medical Center exploring ‘affiliation’ with Franciscan Health System

June 28, 2012 at 9:42 am | In Health, West Seattle businesses, West Seattle news | 7 Comments

Though it’s based in Burien, Highline Medical Center has clinics in West Seattle – where it’s starting work in The Triangle on a new home for its Urgent Care Center – so its announcement this morning is of potential interest to local patients. Highline says it’s looking to join forces with another regional health-care organization:

Highline Medical Center in Burien and the Tacoma-based Franciscan Health System announced today they have agreed to explore a strategic affiliation.

“An affiliation with Franciscan Health System provides a unique and exciting opportunity for our organization,” said Highline Chief Executive Officer Mark Benedum. “We believe an alliance with such a high-caliber organization would bring incredible strength to our ability to achieve our mission and would greatly benefit the communities we serve.”

“I believe that Franciscan and Highline could make strong partners because we share respect for each other’s mission and history,” said Franciscan Chief Executive Officer Joe Wilczek. “Each of our organizations is committed to excellence in patient-centered, high-quality care. These qualities could form the foundation of a partnership that would benefit the communities served by Highline for generations.”

The Highline Board of Trustees and Franciscan Board of Directors have approved a letter-of-intent to explore a possible affiliation. Over the next several months, an affiliation committee comprised of Highline and Franciscan representatives will evaluate the benefits of an alliance and how best to structure a working relationship that could optimize the expertise of both organizations.

Through an affiliation, Franciscan and Highline could collaborate to assure the highest quality of care by sharing best practices and resources. By working together, the organizations could make it easier to access an array of services – from primary and specialized care to long-term care and research – on a scale neither could achieve on its own. An affiliation could also enable Highline and Franciscan to co-develop improved models for delivering care and managing chronic diseases. This could make health care less costly for Medicare and Medicaid, commercial insurers, and patients.

Another potential benefit of an affiliation would be a common electronic health record connecting Highline facilities and physicians. Franciscan is in the process of installing the Epic clinical information technology platform for its system-wide electronic health record that goes live in April 2013. Franciscan and its parent organization, Catholic Health Initiatives, have committed to implementing the Epic system at Highline Medical Center after installation is complete at current Franciscan hospitals, outpatient centers and medical clinics.

By affiliating with Franciscan, Highline would have access to capital resources for facility expansions and new technology not typically available to stand-alone community hospitals.

“I want to acknowledge our Board for their tremendous commitment to keeping our mission as the focus during this process,” Benedum said. “Their selection of Franciscan Health System for a potential affiliation will bring exciting opportunities to our community. We look forward to detailed discussions with the Franciscan organization over next several months.”

The soonest a formal affiliation could occur is early 2013 with the approval of a definitive agreement by the Highline and Franciscan boards. That agreement would then require approval by the Washington State Department of Health and other regulatory agencies before an affiliation could become official. The regulatory review process could take six months or longer.

Here’s how the news release describes Highline’s prospective partner:

About Franciscan Health System

Franciscan Health System includes St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw, St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor; Franciscan Hospice House in University Place; Franciscan Medical Group clinics and providers in Pierce, King and Kitsap counties; and the Franciscan Foundation. Its services include 24-hour emergency and trauma care, critical care, heart and vascular services, cancer care, inpatient medical and surgical care, dialysis, orthopedics, neurosciences, birth centers, imaging services, outpatient surgery, inpatient and in-home hospice care. Franciscan has approximately 8,300 employees. Its medical staff includes about 1,400 physicians and other professional providers.

7 Comments

  1. Note that when Swedish merged with the Providence system, they ceased allowing their patients to voluntarily terminate unwanted pregnancies. For all you pro-choicers out there,this may not be a good idea.

    Comment by KS — 11:00 am June 28, 2012 #

  2. I agree with KS. Something seems fishy to me when the only women’s health care item on the announced roster of medical services is “birth centers.”

    Comment by Forest — 2:49 pm June 28, 2012 #

  3. Urgh. Another forced-labor health”care” system operation? I hope Highline does not opt to join a system that ranks myth higher than medical science.

    Comment by LivesinWS — 7:21 pm June 28, 2012 #

  4. Besides, Epic is a cumbersome EHR designed by bean-counters — not much of a benefit there. It’s the uniform EHR of giant systems.

    Comment by LivesinWS — 7:24 pm June 28, 2012 #

  5. Epic is a terrible medical record system, creates physicians spending more time with the computer rather than their patients.

    Comment by Gary — 9:28 pm June 28, 2012 #

  6. Well, now I understand Highline’s motivation for unexpectedly shutting down their thriving adolescent and teen clinic in December 2011 with no announcement and no assistance to the teen patients to find other Providers.
    If they were courting an alliance with politically conservative Catholics, having a teen clinic where teenagers were treated for all kinds of medical issues and provided with birth control must have been a strategic disadvantage. The clinic closure was a crisis for many of the patients who could not easily find a similar quality of comprehensive care. They also laid off the staff. I am really disgusted with Highline now that this has come to light.

    Comment by cindy b — 12:41 pm June 30, 2012 #

  7. RE: The Epic negativity… not to be an apologist, but if you’ve had a bad experience with it, blame the organization, not the software. It’s highly configurable and is only as good as the organization that implements it.

    I’ve personally had both good and bad experiences, but won’t name names.

    Think of it like this, if your doctor is going to use a stethoscope on you, does he/she warm it up first? Or their hands if they need to touch you? If they’re paying more attention to the computer instead than you, I think that says more about their bedside manner than some piece of software and that it’s time to get a new doc that will provide the care you need.

    Comment by Mat — 12:15 pm July 4, 2012 #

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