The Lee Memorial Healthcare System has signed on the dotted line with a newly formed hospitalist group to streamline and coordinate inpatient care at all four of its Lee County hospitals, officials announced Wednesday.
The three-year contract with Inpatient Specialists of Southwest Florida, ISSF, has been in the development stages for the past 16 months to redesign how patient care is delivered in the hospitals. The end goal is better coordinated care throughout the patient's hospital stay.
"We had six different hospitalist groups, all acting independently. Obviously with that, you had a lot of different variation," Dr. Scott Nygaard, chief medical officer for Lee Memorial, said of the arrangement before the new agreement.
Lee Memorial directors wanted to standardize its hospitalist services and improve the patient's experience, quality of care and treatment coordination to address measurement standards put forth by the federal government for Medicare reimbursement.
The new group involves 35 to 40 physicians who united from the Hospitalist Group of Southwest Florida and from Cogent HMG, the nation's largest private hospitalist group, based in Brentwood, Tenn. Both have had a presence at Lee Memorial for years.
As a type of practice, hospitalists have been around for some time and are fully licensed physicians, generally in internal medicine, who coordinate patient care while they are hospitalized to help reduce how long they stay in the hospital.
Hospitalists also can respond to emergencies when a patient's primary-care physician or specialist is elsewhere.
For patients of Lee Memorial, there will be no noticeable change because they will still be treated by the same physicians who have worked in the hospitals for years, said Joseph Daley, director of quality services for Lee Memorial.
Nygaard declined to disclose the financial terms of the contract or a dollar goal for savings but did say that the contract includes a 40 percent penalty if pay for performance goals are not met. The evaluation will be done annually.
"Our affiliation with (the new group) is reflective of our commitment to serve our community in a manner that allows us to excel under healthcare reform and puts patients first as we work to improve the patient experience, the quality of care and improve the coordination of patients as they transition from a hospital back to their primary-care physician in the community," Nygaard said.
As part of a deal with the Lee Memorial medical staff, the four other groups can continue to provide services to patients but will be phased out by attrition or low inpatient volume.