Burien’s Highline Medical Center to Team Up with Tacoma’s Franciscan Health

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Highline Medical Center CEO Mark Benedum.

Burien’s Highline Medical Center and Tacoma-based Franciscan Health System announced Wednesday (June 27) that they have agreed to explore a strategic affiliation.

The Highline Board of Trustees, along with the Franciscan Board of Directors, 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.

“An affiliation with Franciscan Health System provides a unique and exciting opportunity for our organization,” said Highline CEO 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.”

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 added. “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.

The 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.

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