Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Doctors Join Dartmouth-Hitchcock
July 10, 2012
Going to see a Dartmouth-Hitchcock physician no longer means two hours in a car for residents of southwestern Vermont and nearby communities, such as Hoosick Falls, N.Y. and Williamstown, Mass. On July 1, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center's employed physicians became part of Dartmouth-Hitchcock, which employs nearly 1,000 physicians across New Hampshire and in other parts of Vermont.
"Health care reform makes collaboration between physicians, community hospitals, and academic medical centers more important than ever before," explained Dr. James Weinstein, chief executive officer and president of Dartmouth-Hitchcock. "As health care shifts toward managing the health of a population, organizations will need to be broad, diverse, and well-connected to succeed.
"By working together, Dartmouth-Hitchcock and SVMC can enhance care locally and improve planning and coordination between our organizations," Weinstein added. "These are steps we must take to be ready to create a sustainable health system that truly serves the needs of our communities."
"I am pleased and excited to announce that the physicians in our multispecialty medical group are now part of Dartmouth-Hitchcock," explained Thomas A. Dee, president and CEO of Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC), the parent organization for Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC). "This agreement paves the way for expanded access to physicians in our area and improved recruitment of new physicians."
Dee added that the agreement also will expand SVMC's quality improvement efforts. "SVMC has an outstanding quality improvement record. Dartmouth-Hitchcock is a national leader in quality improvement research. The affiliation will leverage the quality improvement strengths of each organization to drive health care quality in our community to a new, higher level."
The agreement also positions both institutions for coming changes in health care reform. Most reform proposals in Vermont or at the federal level will shift the way for which health care is paid. At present, physicians and hospitals are paid for each office visit or each treatment. That creates incentives for doctors and hospitals to see more patients or provide more treatments. Future payment schemes instead may create incentives for keeping people healthy. For example, a health care institution may be paid a set amount per year to care for the number of people it serves.
The agreement is the culmination of about a year of work at the health system to determine which academic medical center would make the best partner. The agreement itself is straightforward. The roughly 70 physicians employed by SVMC will become employees of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Physicians, an arm of Dartmouth-Hitchcock.
Instead of employing doctors itself, SVMC will purchase physician services from Dartmouth-Hitchcock. The physicians will continue to work in their same positions and locations within SVMC, only as Dartmouth-Hitchcock employees.
Although the physicians and a few clinical staff members will be employed by Dartmouth-Hitchcock, SVMC will continue to operate the medical practices themselves. The buildings, nursing staff, billing and office personnel, and other employees also will remain with SVMC.
To ensure collaboration, the two organizations have created a joint operating council that includes representatives of SVMC's and Dartmouth-Hitchcock's management and physician leaders. The group meets regularly to discuss strategic planning, collaboration, and improving quality and efficiency across the multispecialty physician practice.
"This is not a merger or a takeover," explained Dee. "No assets or cash are changing hands. SVMC will continue to operate our medical practices. The major difference patients may notice is that the doctor they're seeing is now a part of Dartmouth-Hitchcock."
Dartmouth-Hitchcock is a national leader in patient-centered health care and building a sustainable health system. Founded in 1893, the system includes New Hampshire's only Level 1 trauma center and its only air ambulance service, as well as the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, one of only 40 National Center Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the nation, and the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the state's only Children's Hospital Association-approved, comprehensive, full-service children's hospital. As an academic medical center, Dartmouth-Hitchcock provides access to nearly 1,000 primary care doctors and specialists in almost every area of medicine, as well as world-class research at the Audrey and Theodor Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.
Southwestern Vermont Health Care is a non-profit, integrated health system serving communities in Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts. SVHC is made up of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, the VNA and Hospice of SVHC, the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, the SVMC Northshire and Deerfield Valley Campuses, and Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center. Southwestern Vermont Medical Center is Vermont's first Magnet hospital for nursing excellence and home to the region's only breast care program fully accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers.