After many years of operating as separate health care providers, July 1 marks a new day for Mercy, Patients First Health Care and most importantly, area patients. Patients First, which includes 77 physicians, 550 co-workers and 20 medical offices in six counties, is now a part of Mercy – the sixth largest Catholic health care system in the United States. The partnership enables greater access and better coordination of care, close to home, for patients throughout Franklin and surrounding counties.
"If a few years ago you would have told me Patients First and Mercy would become one organization, I would not have believed it, but conversation has the power to heal," said David Chalk, MD, former chair of Patients First and current president of a new division of Mercy Clinic in Franklin County and the surrounding areas. "We worked out a plan and a partnership, and I believe together we will provide better care for our patients."
"We knew that Mercy and Patients First had something special to offer each other by combining our physicians, services and locations, and working together was what the community wanted,” said Donn Sorensen, president of Mercy’s east Missouri region. “Now we have more physicians in more areas to serve patients, and those physicians and patients have access to more services."
Through the merger, Mercy has created a new division of Mercy Clinic to combine the 33 existing Mercy Clinic physicians, co-workers and offices in the Franklin County area with the Patients First physicians, employees and offices, located across 18 communities. Some Patients First services, such as the outpatient surgery center, heart center and diagnostic center, will operate as part of Mercy Hospital Washington.
"Mercy Hospital Washington is excited to add Patients First services to our growing list of innovative hospital offerings," said Terri McLain, president of Mercy Hospital Washington. "The partnership allows us to extend our services to more patients across our region, and provides the opportunity to better link caregivers and patients in rural communities."
As part of a regional health system, Mercy in Washington offers access to health care innovations such as an electronic health record system and telemedicine services. Telemedicine brings medical specialists into patient rooms in rural areas via video technology, linking caregivers and patients to services such as neurology for stroke victims to specialized radiology for high-risk imaging needs. Mercy also offers shared services throughout the system that ultimately lower health care costs while improving care, such as Mercy’s independently owned supply chain division. Because Mercy operates the delivery of its own supplies, life-saving items can be rerouted or rescheduled on a moment’s notice to patients whenever there is a need.
Patients First, established in 1998, has experienced remarkable growth and earned many awards, including Patient-Centered Medical Home Level 3 recognition for all of its 17 primary care locations from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), $1.3 million in incentives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for demonstrating meaningful use of electronic medical records (EMRs) and acknowledgement from the Missouri Health Information Technology (MO HIT) Assistance Center for leadership in the nation’s transition toward an electronically-enabled health care system.
Last August, in the midst of health care reform and economic uncertainties, Patients First began looking into partnership opportunities with other area health care systems. In April, they entered into exclusive negotiations with Mercy.
"We at Mercy couldn’t be more delighted to be working with Patients First physicians and co-workers as a united team," said Sorensen. "Individually, both organizations have served the community well. Together, we are in a great position to address the needs of our patients and the region as a whole, and to respond to the changes that health care reform will bring."
July 1 is being called "Day One of Team One," although many acknowledge that it’s also a return to a time when Mercy and Patients First worked together more closely. "For a lot of us, this is like coming home again, to where our founding physicians started," said Dr. Chalk, who joined the medical staff at Mercy Hospital Washington in 1991 and Patients First in 2001. "The difference between then and now is that we agree on where we want health care to be and where it should go. It’s really a historic time for health care in our community. I’m privileged to be shaping this new partnership."
Mercy is the sixth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves more than 3 million people annually. Mercy includes 31 hospitals, nearly 300 outpatient facilities, 38,000 co-workers and 1,700 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. For more about Mercy, visit www.mercy.net.
Mercy Hospital Washington is a member of Mercy. It is a 187-bed hospital located just 50 miles southwest of St. Louis, Mo., and serves all or parts of Crawford, Franklin, Gasconade, St. Charles and Warren counties. The Hospital offers comprehensive emergency, heart, cancer, surgical, obstetric and pediatric services and physicians who are part of Mercy Clinic