While some small-town Iowa hospitals find themselves joining health networks to stay afloat, Buena Vista Regional Medical Center is affiliated with a health system to access services and expertise to better improve local operations, its leaders say.
BVRMC has been affiliated with Iowa Health Systems since January 1999. The decision to partner was never out of financial hardship, according to BVRMC CEO Jim Sinek.
"Financially this hospital is very strong," Sinek said. "What we find beneficial with our relationship with Iowa Health Systems is the ability for us to access specialized expertise when we need it and without having to pay for that on an ongoing basis."
BVRMC and Iowa Health Systems have a joint operation agreement.
"It brings Iowa Health Systems and Buena Vista Regional Medical Center in a relationship that provides management expertise and resources through the Iowa Health System for an annual fee," Sinek said.
The BVRMC Board of Trustees maintains all authority and accountability for the services provided locally and to offer new services.
"The operating agreement maintains all of the hospital board's authority," Sinek said.
"What it does provide is management expertise and management resources to flow into the organization through Iowa Health Systems."
A big advantage is the ability to access expertise when needed, instead of employing someone full time.
"We may have an issue related to managed care or related to Medicare cost reporting, but we don't have the need to employ someone year round," Sinek said.
Sinek said the affiliation with Iowa Health Systems is a benefit for BVRMC.
"Our decision to work with Iowa Health Systems was driven by the ability to access resources and expertise," he said.
Other major benefits include group purchasing agreements and more access to specialists.
"For example, if you're interested in developing a contract pricing arrangement on your own, you don't have the leverage," Sinek said. "When you're part of a system it significantly increases your leverage to drive prices down."
Also, the technology support through Iowa Health Systems has been vital to BVRMC.
"Software is so expensive now and so instrumental in the success of our operations," Sinek said. "You have to find a way to not only effectively but efficiently provide the information system infrastructure that you need as a hospital."