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Lourdes' new partnership extends evolving model on cardiac care

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A new partnership with Franklin Cardiovascular will expand Lourdes Health System's regional model of patient-centered cardiovascular care to grow efficiency and cut costs by aligning more physicians with hospitals, according to executives with the group.

"This is a complete, integrated system, and there's no reason why we can't look at same model for other specialties," said Mark Nessel, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Lourdes. "The changes from heath care reform drive this model, anyway."

According to Reginald Blaber, executive director and vice president of cardiovascular services for Lourdes, the group's existing partnerships — formed in 2011 with Associated Cardiovascular Associates and South Jersey Heart Group — cut more than half an hour from the "door-to-balloon" time for patients rushed to emergency rooms with heart problems. Additionally, the length of stay for patients recovering from heart surgery has decreased by three days.

Nessel said heart failure is one of the most expensive diagnoses for Medicare, and it requires the most time and resources in both the out- and in-patient arenas. According to Blaber, Lourdes saw Associated Cardiovascular Associates’ original patient-centered medical home for heart failure patients as the “crown jewel” of the cardio group, noting that its model has decreased the hospital readmission rate by 60 percent over the past five years.

According to Blaber, Lourdes is planning to construct more centers for heart failure patients close to its physicians, and it recently built centers in Sewell and Cherry Hill. Nesser said other South Jersey hospital networks, like Virtua, already use the centers for their benefit, but Lourdes does not see them as competitors.

"Our physicians understand the business of running a hospital," Blaber said. "When we first started, physicians did not speak finance, and the finance department did not speak clinical. Having physicians and administrators speak the same language allows us to be more efficient and cut costs, and we're still working on this."

According to Blaber, it has taken Lourdes a year to overcome legal hurdles and work out negotiations to acquire Franklin Cardiovascular, which is the practice of noninvasive cardiologist Nicholas DePace, with offices located in Cherry Hill, Sewell and Philadelphia.

"Over past year, they were very collaborative with the reconciliation process, and we're continuing to develop this partnership," Nessel said. "We can now all sit at a table together."

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