Major Healthcare Trends Converge as Hackensack, Summit Join Forces

Andrew Kitchenman | April 15, 2015 | Health Care
State’s largest doctor-owned practice will manage physicians affiliated with growing hospital network

Hackensack University Medical Center, a member of the new Hackensack Meridian Health Network
Two healthcare trends converged yesterday as New Jersey’s largest doctor-owned medical practice and one of the state’s biggest hospital systems announced they will join forces.

The physician-management agreement between Summit Health Management and Hackensack University Health Network illustrates how times – and approaches to healthcare – have changed.

On the one hand, the number of doctors who work directly for hospital systems like HackensackUHN has grown, as one- and two-doctor practices have become increasingly rare.

On the other hand, medical practices have looked to better coordinate care and become more efficient, as exemplified by Summit Medical Group, which launched Summit Health Management to manage doctors’ offices.

While the two parties signed a letter of intent, a final agreement must be worked out. If everything goes according to plan, HackensackUHN will benefit from the management savvy that Summit has built up in coordinating care of patients with chronic and complex needs.

The partners hope to build a new 50,000-square-foot ambulatory care facility that would serve as a “one-stop shop” owned by HackensackUHN and managed by Summit.

Services provided by Summit for HackensackUHN may include planning for the use of space and equipment, as well as management of patient flow and implementation of clinical practices.

Dr. Jeffrey LeBenger, chairman and CEO of both Summit Medical Group and Summit Health Management, said his organization would help integrate the relatively disparate practices that are currently a part of Hackensack UHN.

“Through our integrated model we have been able to meet all quality metrics and lower costs in the state, with high patient satisfaction,” LeBenger said.

LeBenger also said that having Summit manage HackensackUHN practices will help alleviate the uneasiness that some doctors have with working for hospitals.

While the doctors will remain employees of Hackensack UHN, Summit Health Management will handle everything from human resources to managing the revenue cycle.

But LeBenger said a key benefit is Summit’s experience in managing the healthcare for the 5 percent of patients who account for 30 percent of healthcare spending.

[related]By managing the care of these patients through the use of trained care managers, Summit makes sure patients take their medications and keep scheduled doctor appoints, working to ensure that things go smoothly when patients leave the hospital and go home.

HackensackUHN has about 500 doctors, but Summit Health Management will start by managing a smaller group of doctors’ practices, bringing more into the management service over time, LeBenger said.

Summit Medical Group itself has 550 practitioners and 2,000 employees who support more than 80 specialties and services.

HackensackUHN President and CEO Robert C. Garrett said the agreement fits his organization’s goal of remaining at the forefront “of all facets of healthcare.”

“We have long recognized the importance of successful partnerships with physicians and physician groups, and we believe that Summit Health Management will prove to be a successful partner since it is very similarly aligned with Hackensack UHN’s goals,” Garrett said in a statement.

Along with operating the state’s largest single hospital, Hackensack University Medical Center, HackensackUHN has partnerships with for-profit companies to operate HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley and HackensackUMC Mountainside, and has added Palisades Medical Center to it network. It also has announced plans to merge with Meridian Health, which itself operates five hospitals and is adding two more.