Update: St. Francis Hospital partners with Columbus Clinic

Leadership: Move should improve patient care, generate cost savings

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 31, 2014 

As St. Francis Hospital and physicians group, Columbus Clinic, unveiled a long-negotiated “partnership” Monday, Dr. Butch Wolff expressed amazement at the “progress” he has been witnessing of late.

“It is truly a collaborative experience, which is something that’s been unusual in my 40 years of practice in health care,” Wolff, a surgeon, said of the relationship between the hospital, its board of trustees and the more than 100 doctors with which it is associated.

“It seems to me that the board has built a huge ark to deal with the flood of changes coming in health care,” said Wolff, chairman of the St. Francis Physician Leadership Board, recalling a TV commercial for “Noah,” a new movie. “We have been privileged as physicians, and our patients have been privileged to come aboard that vessel.”

That strong connection between the hospital’s administration and the affiliated doctors using the facility gave St. Francis the “edge” after Columbus Clinic completed year-long discussions with it and Columbus Regional Health, the city’s other major hospital system, said Dr. James “J.P.” Miller, president of Columbus Clinic.

“I think St. Francis has really embraced this idea of an integrated care system and recognizes that physicians — if that’s going to succeed — have to be an integral part of (designing) that. They can’t just form the system and ask the doctors to join,” said Miller, an internal medicine doctor at Columbus Clinic.

The clinic, founded in 1990, has 27 physicians, 15 mid-level providers, and a staff of about 230 others, with its offices now located at Doctors Specialty Hospital, a building owned by Columbus Regional.

Miller said Columbus Clinic sees roughly 750 patients each day, either for physician visits or for lab work.

He stressed the clinic’s doctors will retain privileges to treat patients and collaborate with other physicians using the Columbus Regional hospitals, which include Midtown Medical Center and Northside Medical Center.

The move to partner with St. Francis, however, is designed to improve overall patient care by streamlining everything from scheduling to having lab tests performed, while also lowering costs for all involved.

“Our physicians will be able to access test results more quickly and easily,” said Jim Zacharias, Columbus Clinic chief executive officer. “Care will become more cost effective, as well as more comprehensive and better coordinated.”

With that type of streamlining and efficiency within offices and testing facilities, there should be room for financial savings, said Robert Granger, president and chief executive officer of St. Francis Hospital.

“If we can consolidate those and eliminate the number of people to operate them, think about how much savings you can squeeze out of the health-care system. That’s very much a part of it,” he said.

The alliance with St. Francis also means Columbus Clinic will have access to Mayo Clinic’s special expertise. It was last November that St. Francis joined the renowned Mayo Clinic Care Network, which gives physicians there access to medical counsel and training.

Monday’s collaboration was announced inside St. Francis’ Butler Pavilion auditorium, part of the multimillion-dollar expansion by the Manchester Expressway hospital, completed last year. The long-term agreement with Columbus Clinic is effective Tuesday.

“We’re not sure what it means, starting such an important partnership on April Fool’s Day,” joked Granger. “It is, indeed, not a prank,” but a partnership that should last “many, many years.”

Said Granger of the string of St. Francis news that includes the expansion, the Mayo Clinic connection and, now, Columbus Clinic: “It’s good to see that the community and physicians are responding to what we’re trying to do. Obviously, getting a group like the Columbus Clinic to come on board is a big validation that we’re heading in the right direction.”

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