Executive: Health care partnership offers options

Chris Thomas
Chris Thomas

Phil Castle, The Business Times

 Chris Thomas touts a list of the benefits he foresees resulting from a new partnership between Community Hospital in Grand Junction and University of Utah Health Care based in Salt Lake City.

But for patients, the arrangement will offer more choices in the diagnostic and treatment services they need, said Thomas, the president and chief executive officer of Community Hospital. “I think it’s going to be about options.”

Officials with Community Hospital and  University of Utah Health Care announced an agreement formalizing the partnership.

The partnership doesn’t change the ownership or control of Community Hospital, but offers instead a collaboration that will offer hospital patients and staff access to resources from what Thomas called one of the best academic medical centers in the world.

Telemedicine — the exchange of medical information through electronic connections — will enable Community Hospital to offer more services, Thomas said. That’s particularly true for those health care specialities in which low volume makes it economically infeasible for the hospital to maintain staffing.

Video conferencing and the rapid transmission of medical images and test results make it possible to diagnose illnesses and injuries and formulate the best treatment plans, he said.

Sometimes that care can be offered at Community Hospital and at other times elsewhere, Thomas said, adding the patient will always have the choice.

Employees from Mesa County and Mesa County School District 51 who receive health care through programs offered by Community Hospital will have the option to receive in-network services at University of Utah Health Care as well as receive travel benefits, Thomas added.

Along with patients, nurses and physicians at Community Hospital also will have access to resources from University of Utah Health Care, including consultations and mentoring as well as training in Salt Lake City, Thomas said. “We’re extremely excited about that.”

The partnership represents the culmination  of several years of work in looking into arrangements that would allow Community Hospital to remain a community owned, stand-alone organization, but also move forward in a changing health care industry that demands better outcomes at lower costs, Thomas said. “We think this is the best of both worlds.”

Several opportunities were considered, but the University of Utah ultimately was selected, he said. “They really matched what we’re trying to accomplish.”

The University of Utah has developed similar relationships with other hospitals in Utah as well as Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming as part of its efforts to expand its service area, Thomas said. Community Hospital will serve as another organization that, when appropriate, will refer patients to University of Utah Health Care, he added.

Dr. Sean Mulvihill, chief executive officer of the University of Utah Medical Group, stated in a news release the partnership will position both organizations to succeed in an evolving health care environment.

“Inherent in our mission as a teaching hospital is our responsibility to share clinical best practices, research advances and provide our community partners with the educational resources we’ve developed as a university,” Mulvihill stated. “We want to be a resource to improve the health and well-being of residents from across the Intermountain West.”

Along with developing the partnership with University of Utah Health Care, Thomas said efforts are moving forward to construct a new Community Hospital near G and 24 roads in Grand Junction.

Plans have been finalized for a facility that not only will be larger than the existing hospital on 12th Street, but laid out in a far better fashion, Thomas said.

The hospital will be constructed adjacent to the Canyon View Medical Plaza. The newly completed medical office building represents a venture involving the doctors who practice there, Community Hospital and Development Solutions Group, a medical real estate development company.

Once about $45 million in financing has been secured for a new hospital, the 16-month construction project can begin, Thomas said.