Hospital Merger Mania

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“Ask yourself one question: how do we provide the best health care possible to the population we serve?”

This question was my opening statement when KSB’s board of directors held our annual retreat last spring.  Do we provide great care as an independent community hospital, or should we consider affiliation options to enhance what we offer alone?

Their answer was “both”.

The number of independent community hospitals in Illinois is dwindling.  Out of nearly 300 hospitals, less than 35 remain independent.  Evidence exists in our part of the world in Rochelle, Mendota, as well as all three Rockford Hospitals.

KSB’s board of directors is responsible for observing and reacting to trends in our industry.  The merger trend shows no signs of slowing.

Take a look at this map showing recent activity in Northern Illinois.

Merge

Across the nation, healthcare providers are joining to be better prepared for the evolving future of American healthcare. KSB is no exception. We have successfully partnered with OSF Healthcare for state-of-the-art stroke care and with Rockford Memorial Hospital for neonatal care. Those are just two examples; you can probably think of several other partnerships we have.

As you can probably tell, these aren’t “affiliations” in the traditional way. A decade ago, an affiliation typically meant a buyout — pay a lump sum; bring in new leadership; change the name, signage, culture. That was that.

Today that has all changed. Many independent hospitals are learning that partnerships help smaller organizations stay competitive by delivering new services to the community they serve, without sacrificing quality or compassion.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that new types of partnerships between healthcare providers are taking shape all over the country, in the form of joint ventures, alliances, clinically integrated networks, and countless others. Affiliations that used to be clearly black and white — “mine vs. yours” — are now gray — “ours.”

More importantly, however, today’s hospitals are entering these partnerships from positions of strength. Instead of being motivated by poor financial outlooks, today’s successful independent hospitals are recognizing that they will be able to serve their communities better by teaming up with other players in their region. This approach gives leaders from those hospitals the chance to be more selective and to take their time to make the right decision for the community.

Around town, I’ve heard some questions (and some entertaining rumors) about KSB’s plans for the future. The answer is this: our future is defined by our mission. Our top priority is to provide our patients with the best care possible, and KSB will always do so with the service and compassion that our community deserves.

How KSB accomplishes our mission is always evolving, of course, as it has been since KSB opened its door almost 120 years ago. We’ve always worked in partnership with our physicians, nurses, and staff. Today, we work in partnership with OSF, Rockford Memorial, and many others. Our excellent board and leaders are always exploring ways in which KSB can work with the entire community of providers to fulfill our mission.

Right now, being independent works for KSB and our patients. Our outlook remains strong, and our partnerships allow us to offer additional services we couldn’t provide on our own. But we won’t close our eyes to progress, either. Our board will always explore the best potentials paths for our health system as health care changes so that KSB and the care we offer are preserved and can prosper.

I’ll continue to provide updates on what is happening in the healthcare industry and at KSB in future posts. In the meantime, I always welcome your questions and thoughts. After all, we’re all in this together.

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