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Atlantic Health steps up expansion of ambulatory care

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For Atlantic Health System, bigger isn’t as important as better.

The Morristown-based hospital system – third-largest in the state – is in the midst of a major push into the ambulatory care system as it celebrates two of its hospitals, Morristown Medical Center and Overlook Medical Center, being named among the top 100 hospitals in the US by Healthgrades Operating Co. Inc.

Morristown was named among the top 50, while Overlook was in the top 100 for quality of service and clinical performance. Both were the only hospitals in the state to garner the prestigious placements from Healthgrades, a Denver-based company that provides detailed information about hospitals and doctors nationwide.

In the past year, Atlantic Health has opened six primary and specialty care satellite offices throughout the state, and plans to launch 10 more throughout 2018.

“We’re putting up 10 new satellite offices throughout the year from Totowa to Scotch Plains,” said Amy Perry, CEO of Atlantic Health’s hospital Division. “The focus is how we improve accessibility for our patients. We want to expand into our communities and make Atlantic Health more accessible for all of the 4.9 million customers that we serve.”

Amy Perry, CEO Hospital division, Athanltic Health System
Amy Perry, CEO Hospital division, Athanltic Health System

The list of satellite offices Atlantic Health plans to open this year are:

  • Atlantic Medical Group Primary Care at Totowa in April;
  • Atlantic Medical Group Primary Care at Randolph in May;
  • Atlantic Medical Group Primary Care at Pompton Lakes in May;
  • Atlantic Health Specialty Care - Patriot’s Plaza in Hackettstown in May;
  • Medicor Cardiology in Flemington in May;
  • Atlantic Advanced Urgent Care at Mountain Lakes in June;
  • Union Campus expansion (adding primary care, nephrology, radiation oncology and other specialties to an existing hub) in May;
  • Primary care site in Branchburg in the 4th quarter;
  • Primary care site in Raritan in the 4th quarter; and
  • Primary care site in Scotch Plains in the 4th quarter.

This follows the opening of a half-dozen satellite offices that Atlantic Health has already opened since March 2017:

  • Atlantic Medical Group Orthopedics at New Providence in February;
  • Atlantic Medical Group Women’s Health at Wayne in October; 
  •  Atlantic Medical Group Primary Care at Oakland in October;
  • Atlantic Medical Group Internal Medicine at New Providence in September;
  • Atlantic Medical Group Rockaway Orthopedics in Denville in May; and
  • Atlantic Hematology Oncology in Morristown in March.  

Dr. Louis Brusco, chief medical officer at Morristown Medical, said in an interview that one of the factors that prompted the expansion is the system is in the midst of installing a shared platform for electronic medical records via EPIC, a software company specializing in health care.

Dr. Louis Brusco, chief medical officer, Morristown Medical
Dr. Louis Brusco, chief medical officer, Morristown Medical

“We’re in the middle of installing of our EPIC platform right now,” Brusco said. “Two of our five hospitals are on EPIC right now, and the rest will be on it by the end of this year. It allows physicians from any of the institutions in our system to track what’s going on when their patients are somewhere else. It also allows for all of the inpatient materials to be available to every outpatient physician, so when a physician sends their patients to a hospital, they can then electronically send all of their records.”

Atlantic Health currently operates six hospitals and employs roughly 900 health care providers in 10 specialties, not including primary care. And despite major acquisitions and alliances by both RWJBarnabas and Hackensack Meridian Health, Atlantic Health will not focus on consolidation just to keep up, Perry said. Instead, it will focus on strengthening the quality of its services through strategic initiatives, such as the physician-led Clinically Integrated Network it set up in December.

“We’re not worried about consolidation, that’s not the reason for us to make strategic decisions,” she said. “We’re trying to achieve quality outcomes and improve the care for our patients. If that requires us to buy another hospital, we will, but size is not our endgame. Accessibility and affordability are our endgames, we’re doing everything we can to improve our quality across the system and improve our accessibility throughout our communities by expanding our physician enterprise, and providing other types of services that patients need to stay healthy and stay out of an acute-care environment.”

One major partnership Atlantic Health engaged in earlier this month is the creation of the new Healthcare Transformation Consortium. The system is teaming with CentraState Healthcare SystemSt. Joseph’s HealthHoly Name Medical CenterHunterdon Healthcare and Saint Peter’s Healthcare System that will service the combined 50,000 employees of each entity.

Details of that plan are still being worked out, Perry said, adding the goal of the consortium is to provide quality care at a lower cost.

“It’s really creating a new way for us to connect acute care and health care providers throughout the state to improve affordability,” she said. “We want to focus on best practices that break the traditional barriers of one health system not partnering with another. We’ve really loved the collaboration and the team approach to this, because we all have the common interest of improving care for our employees and achieving a higher level of affordability.”

Brusco emphasized Atlantic Health’s commitment to value-based care will not waver in the face of consolidation. He noted the system already offers bundled payment options to Medicare and Medicaid patients, and engages in shared savings plan with both programs.

“We are held to metrics of performance,” he said.

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Vince Calio

Vince Calio

Vince Calio covers health care and manufacturing for NJBIZ. You can contact him at vcalio@njbiz.com.

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