Northwest Community Healthcare's Physician Hospital Organization announced Tuesday it will join Illinois Health Partners, a network that includes physicians from DuPage Medical Group, Elmhurst Hospital and Edward Hospital in Naperville.
The move, effective March 1, creates a network of more than 1,800 physicians across the suburbs and is a first step for Northwest Community in its efforts to move forward without merging with a larger hospital group, officials said.
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With this agreement, Illinois Health Partners will serve more than 110,000 HMO patients across the suburbs.
"This partnership is an important opportunity and will allow NCH to remain independent while growing as a competitive, efficient and high quality system of care," Stephen Scogna, president and CEO of NCH, said in a statement.
Scogna took over the Arlington Heights-based hospital in May, about the time the board took the idea of merging or selling to a larger hospital group off the table.
Instead, NCH has been creating a strategic plan for keeping the hospital independent.
"This is part of our pathway to thrive in the future independently and it's an incredibly exciting first step," Scogna said on Tuesday.
"This is the direction we decided to go rather than a merger, it provides us with an access point to a large group of patients, but still allows us to make decisions for how we want to deliver care locally," he said.
Scogna said Illinois Health Partners was chosen for its similarities, among other reasons.
"We tried to identify like-minded organizations that were philosophically aligned and demographically and geographically similar," he said.
Scogna did not discuss the terms of the contract with Illinois Health Partners.
"It provides us with access to a network, but doesn't create a competitive situation between our physicians and theirs," he said.
While the partnership is in its early stages, Scogna said it will be about the physicians sharing resources, working toward financial incentives and clinical integration, but the benefits will trickle down to patients as well.
"The community should see higher quality and lower costs as a result of this network," Scogna said. "This move is more about the physicians themselves, but the patients will see a greater level of coordination and alignment."
DuPage Medical Group and Edward Hospital were the founding joint venture members when Illinois Health Partners was created in 2011, according to a statement.
"The addition of NCH enables Illinois Health Partners to have a greater impact on the health care experience of patients across the suburban region," Mike Kasper, CEO of DuPage Medical Group, said in a statement. "The growing number of high quality physicians and facilities in the network will allow us to reach the ultimate goal of Illinois Health Partners, to offer a better health care experience for patients -- one that enhances quality, value and access to as many patients as possible."
ELMCARE, the physician hospital organization which includes 430 affiliated and independent physicians on the medical staff at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, joined Illinois Health Partners in January 2014.
"This is an exciting expansion of Illinois Health Partners," said Pam Davis, system CEO of Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare in a statement. "We're proud to be partnering with NCH as we all work together to improve the quality of care patients receive and control costs in this era of health care reform."