Partners HealthCare at 20: Moving Forward Together
On March 18, 1994, Partners HealthCare became a reality, born of an agreement between Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). The vision of those hospitals’ leaders was to build an integrated health care system that would excel in patient care, teaching, research and community service.
|H. Richard Nesson, then-president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and J. Robert Buchanan, then-general director of Massachusetts General Hospital, shake hands to mark the founding of Partners HealthCare.|
Since then the system has expanded and now includes more than a dozen acute, non-acute and specialty hospitals, community physicians, partnerships with dozens of community health centers, and a managed care organization offering affordable care to the underserved.
Over two decades, the members of the Partners HealthCare system have achieved some notable milestones. For example:
- In the 20 years since Partners was formed, three Nobel laureates have been named who either trained or practiced at a Partners hospital.
- Partners is one of the first health care systems in the U.S. to bridge genetic research and clinical care by offering whole genome sequencing, analysis, and interpretation for patients anywhere.
- Boston routinely is recognized as the only city in the U.S. with two “Top 10” hospitals (BWH and MGH) in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings. In addition, McLean Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, North Shore Medical Center, and Newton-Wellesley Hospital all have earned distinctions for excellence in patient care.
Partners was one of the first health care systems in the U.S. to have 100 percent of its physicians and specialists actively using an electronic medical record to improve the quality and coordination of patient care.
- Partners has responded to the challenge of an increasing need for behavioral health and substance abuse treatment by adding services and improving access to mental health care throughout eastern Massachusetts.
- Partners commitment to the continuum of care is showcased through the new Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown. The hospital opened days after the Boston Marathon bombings in the spring of 2013 and helped meet the needs of dozens of those injured as well as thousands of other patients.
Partners also has undertaken a number of broad, multi-year initiatives that leverage “system-ness” in support of this vision. Among them are:
- pledging to find $300 million in operational efficiencies and cost savings across the organization to support patient affordability
- participating as an “Accountable Care Organization” aimed at improving care while reducing costs through better coordination and reorganizing the way care is delivered for the most complex patients
- affiliating with Neighborhood Health Plan to improve access to community-based care – particularly for underserved patients – to coordinate that care more effectively, and to provide it more affordably
- investing in a single electronic health record – Partners eCare – that will ensure that providers have all the information they need to provide the very best patient care.
Looking ahead, Partners is exploring new ways to deliver more coordinated, effective, affordable, and accessible care in the communities where its patients live and work. Keeping care in the community whenever possible, while offering access to some of the best hospitals in the country, when needed, will help Partners continue to improve quality and keep costs down.
One example of this is population health management (PHM) – assuming responsibility for the health and health care costs of a population of patients. PHM organizes care around patient health needs regardless of whether they are seeking health care. So PHM requires some changes in how care is organized and delivered; how populations are identified and patients are engaged; and how success is measured. The goal is better health for patients – including a more organized and coordinated patient experience and improved outcomes – with the allied goal of lower costs.
Partners is one of the first health care systems in the U.S. to bridge genetic research and clinical care by offering whole genome sequencing, analysis, and interpretation
Three current efforts mark Partners progress in working toward this goal:
- Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH): reorganizing primary care practices to provide team-based, patient-centered care for primary care patients, with heightened focus on prevention, chronic disease management, and medically complex care.
- Integrated Care Management: supporting practices in providing robust care management – including better access, monitoring, and care coordination – to complex, chronically ill patients who have a Partners/PCHI PCP.
- Information Technology: developing and disseminating the technology needed to improve workflow for clinicians and provide data and analysis for reporting and measuring success.
In process are PHM programs in specialty care and patient engagement.
Another example is the Partnership for Community Health, a joint project with Neighborhood Health Plan and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. Launched in 2013, the program provides grants to community health centers (CHC) to help them transform the way care is delivered and assist them in adapting to state and national reforms.
Over the next 15 years, the Partnership for Community Health will provide up to $90 million in grant funding to CHCs to develop and launch measurable programs that enhance health outcomes, service, efficiencies and quality of care. Grants will focus on projects that support expanded programs and improve the infrastructure of CHCs. The first round of grants totaled $4.25 million and benefitted each of the 49 CHC systems in the Commonwealth. The 2014 grant cycle will provide $6 million to CHCs over two years, focusing on operation and service excellence in the areas of data and decision support, operational improvement, and communication
In addition to its community mission, Partners will continue to embrace its role as a provider of the highest quality patient care, a laboratory for testing the boundaries of science in pursuit of knowledge, and a teacher of future generations of health care professionals.
Former Partners President and CEO Gary Gottlieb, MD, said “after 20 years, our vision is as clear and focused as ever. Our commitment to our mission, our patients, and the communities we serve is paramount. We embrace our role as a leader in delivering the highest-quality care that is affordable and accessible for those we serve – today, tomorrow, and for generations to come.”