TRENTON — The companies that own the Morristown and Hunterdon medical centers announced an unusual partnership today they said would allow both to operate independently and at a savings while expanding their reach in a shifting market.
The agreement, reached after a year of negotiations, is not a merger, the chief executives of Atlantic Health System, which owns the Morristown hospital, and Hunterdon Healthcare said.
Joseph A. Trunfio, chief executive of Atlantic, said under the arrangement Hunterdon would be able to buy prescription drugs, implants and other medical supplies at a reduced rate because of the vast buying power of Atlantic, a $1.5 billion three-hospital network.
He said Hunterdon Medical Center — which serves Hunterdon, Mercer, Somerset and Warren counties — would also have access to Atlantic’s specialists in cardiology, cancer, neuroscience and pediatrics.
In turn, Atlantic will benefit by expanding its patient base, Trunfio said.
"This is part of the larger picture, to develop a network in northern New Jersey," he said.
Hunterdon Healthcare includes the hospital, a regional community health center, a foundation and other properties. Atlantic Health embraces Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center in Summit and Newton Medical Center, for a total of 1,308 hospital beds and 2,750 doctors.
Trunfio hinted at future alliances as well as mergers and acquisitions, but he declined to elaborate.
Hospital experts say many chief executives are privately negotiating to help weather the changes anticipated under the Affordable Care Act in 2014, At that time, hospitals will have to treat more patients but receive less Medicare reimbursement while showing they are managing people’s health and not simply treating their ailments.
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"This alliance offers community members more immediate access to certain specialty services and advanced technology," Trunfio said. "Patients should expect the best clinical and evidence-based practices without duplicating efforts and testing, thereby also reducing costs to families."
Robert Wise, president and chief executive of Hunterdon Healthcare System, predicted the "strategic alliance" would give his company "a dynamic partner while maintaining our strong commitment to independence and local control."
"Atlantic Health will enable us to participate in larger and broader health care improvement initiatives that would not be possible for Hunterdon Healthcare alone," Wise said.
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Hunterdon Medical Center will remain independent
RARITAN TOWNSHIP -- In a time when the news in the healthcare industry is dominated by consolidation, Hunterdon Healthcare is a maverick. And happy about it.
"We see many hospitals surrounding us merging, but we remain committed to maintaining our independence," Robert Wise, president and chief executive officer of Hunterdon Healthcare, said at the organization's annual meeting on Thursday.
And though the hospital is steadfast in its desire to remain on its own, it will continue to pursue partnerships and expand its reach, even outside Hunterdon County's borders.
'We have been caring for Somerset County residents for many years, but now we will increase the access to care for our Somerset County residents with our new building in Bridgewater opening in June," said Dr. Edward Spector, Hunterdon Healthcare's medical director.
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The new center, in the former Bank of America building on Route 22, is a partnership with Atlantic Healthcare System. In the 55,000-square-foot space will be offices for gastroenterology, endocrinology, urology, breast surgery specialist, cardiology, physical therapy, imaging, diagnostic services and procedural services.
Hunterdon Healthcare will also be opening in the fall an outpatient care center in the former Granetz building in Raritan Crossing on Route 206 in Raritan Borough.
But though it is expanding its sights, Hunterdon Healthcare, with revenue of $300 million in 2015 and investment in new facilities and equipment totaling $23 million, is committed to maintaining the philosophy that has guided it for nearly six decades.
When Hunterdon Medical Center opened in 1953 — 11-year-old Henry Potopowitz,was the first patient with an acute case of appendicitis — Hunterdon became the last New Jersey county to have its own hospital.
But Hunterdon Medical Center was different and received national attention because it was a revolutionary model of healthcare. Doctors' officers were at the hospital and the focus was on prevention and delivering personalized care. In 1963, it became one of the first hospitals in the country to allow fathers in the delivery room
"This hospital was more than bricks and mortar," Wise said, adding that it "would become a healthcare system that focused on keeping people healthy as well as treating their illness."
And the proof that Hunterdon Healthcare remains dedicated to those "core values" is that for six consecutive years, Hunterdon has been named the healthiest county in New Jersey.
"This year's health rankings show that people living in the healthiest county are twice as likely to have longer lives than those living in unhealthy counties," Wise said.
That's a result of Hunterdon Healthcare working in partnership with nearly 40 agencies, including the Hunterdon County Department of Health, on educational and support programs promoting wellness and prevention.
"Hunterdon County residents are making smarter choices regarding diet, exercise and health assessments," Wise said. "More members of our community now have a wellness plan and we would like to see this trend continue to grow."
For example, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in Hunterdon County. Hunterdon Healthcare is now offering Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease, a program that addresses the root causes of heart disease through four key elements — nutrition, exercise, stress management and social support.
Wise said the first participants in the program reduced their cholesterol levels, reduced depression,increased stress management and exercised more.
And Hunterdon Healthcare is not afraid to explore nontraditional approaches to healthcare, Wise said.
In 2015, through the Integrative Medicine Program, 1,593 people received acupuncture treatment at locations in Flemington and Lambertville.
With the realization that chronic diseases are caused by behavioral factors, "integrative medicine offers a number of interventions that can help patients adopt healthier lifestyles," Wise said.
That's one of the reasons why behavioral health is now offered at several of Hunterdon Healthcare's primary care practices.
For Wise, Hunterdon Healthcare has the same challenges that all hospitals face — lowering the cost of care, improving community health and, in a competitive marketplace, providing the best experience.
The focus, Wise explained, is to improve health in the communities so care providers are able to identify problems and implement solutions outside the acute care in hospitals.
"Patients can expect less complex and much more coordinated care and the burden of illness should decrease," he said.
That strategy has allowed Hunterdon Healthcare to reduce its per capita cost, reducing the dependence on publicly funded health care programs.
"Every organization, whether large or small, should be judged by these common goals in healthcare," Wise said.
Staff Writer Mike Deak: 908-243-6607; [email protected]
Atlantic Health, Hunterdon Healthcare in New Jersey Agree to Alliance
Atlantic Health System in Morristown, N.J., and Hunterdon Healthcare System in Flemington, N.J., announced an alliance to bring more specialized medical care to the central and western parts of New Jersey.
The organizations have been discussing the alliance for more than a year. The deal is not a merger as both organizations will continue to operate independently. Hunterdon Healthcare System includes Hunterdon Medical Center in Raritan Township, N.J., Hunterdon Regional Community Health in Flemington, Hunterdon Medical Center Foundation and Midjersey Health Corp. Atlantic Health System owns and operates Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center in Summit, N.J., Newton (N.J.) Medical Center and Goryeb Children's Hospital in Morristown.
Under the alliance, Atlantic Health and Hunterdon Healthcare will work together on a broad range of activities, such as population health initiatives; patient data management and connectivity; increased scope of clinical offerings at Hunterdon Healthcare; improved access for Hunterdon Healthcare's physicians and patients to specialized services and clinical trials with Atlantic Health System; and joint purchasing arrangements to reduce costs of equipment, supplies and pharmaceuticals, according to the release.
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Hunterdon Medical Center: 2018 was a year of continued growth and change
RARITAN TOWNSHIP - After a year of "anxiety and uncertainty," Hunterdon Healthcare, the parent company of Hunterdon Medical Center, is poised to move forward and continue being a "trendsetter" in family medicine.
That was the message delivered Wednesday at the annual meeting of Hunterdon Healthcare by Patrick Gavin, the new president and CEO, and Dr. Robert Cody, chairman of the board of trustees.
Last year was a challenge, Cody explained, because of the retirement of longtime president and CEO Robert Wise.
When Wise stepped down, staffers began to speculate about the health system's future. "Does this mean we're going to merge?" Cody said many were wondering.
Despite those worries, Hunterdon Healthcare registered "remarkable accomplishments" in 2018, including hiring Gavin to replace Wise.
"As we enter our 66th year, the community has watched as Hunterdon Medical Center sustained its vision – excellence in health care," Gavin said.
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In 2018, Hunterdon Healthcare invested more than $34 million in new facilities and equipment, Gavin said, after registering a $10 million, or 2.8 percent, margin.
The system had total revenue of $361 million and provided $3.4 million in charity care. More than 9,000 patients were admitted to the hospital with an average stay of 4.1 days. There were 32,075 emergency room visits and 984 births. The system's Patient Portal, which allows patients to communicate with their healthcare providers and access their records and test results, has enrolled almost 40,000 patients
"There should be no doubt about what the Hunterdon Healthcare System is doing with its margin," Gavin said. "We are returning it to the community in the form of advanced medicine and expanded services."
Almost 600 new employees and more than 100 new volunteers joined Hunterdon Healthcare, he said.
The organization's urgent care facilities in Flemington and Raritan Borough continued "to exceed our expectations," Gavin said, with the Flemington location seeing more than 13,000 patients and the Raritan Borough office seeing about 8,500 patients.
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The system's primary focus in 2018 was efforts to reach its goal as a "High Reliability Organization (HRO)," Gavin said.
"Although healthcare as an industry has always embraced opportunities to improve quality and safety, a greater transformation is necessary to make a more significant impact on error reduction, assuring the highest quality care for our patients," Gavin said.
Every morning at 9 a.m., the staff holds "safety huddles" to discuss safety concerns and promote awareness of safety issues. About 2,700 employees and 500 physicians attended mandatory HRO training.
"HRO has taught us to speak up for safety, always think critically, stay on task, do no harm, have each other's back and cross-check ourselves," Gavin said.
The system continues to care for patients even after they leave the hospital, Gavin said. Now employing 16 care coordinators, the system contacted more than 4,400 patients within 72 hours of their discharge from the hospital.
"As a result of this addition to our model of continuing care, we avoid the use of the word 'discharge' after a hospital stay," Gavin said. "We call what they do an assurance in the 'transfer of care.' The patient stays in our system, keeping us as a member of their healthcare service family."
To combat the opioid epidemic, the system closely monitored prescribing patterns. As a result, Gavin said, at the end of 2018, there were 281 fewer patients taking chronic opioids.
The system also won several awards in 2018. Hunterdon Healthcare was ranked by U.S. News and World Report's "Best Regional Hospitals" in the metropolitan area. Hunterdon Healthcare was also
In addition, Hunterdon Healthcare received Magnet designation for the third time for excellence in nursing.
Staff Writer Mike Deak: 908-243-6607; [email protected]
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