Monday, January 24, 2011

Competing hospitals

At a health-care forum last week, representatives of Charlotte’s two large hospital systems and the state’s largest health insurance company talked about how they need to work together to improve care and reduce costs.

Carolinas HealthCare System and Presbyterian Healthcare have been zealous competitors for decades.

Carolinas HealthCare is the bigger, public system, with more hospitals and beds, a medical residency program to train doctors and a network of clinics that provide care for the indigent. Presbyterian, the private system, has grown too, through its merger with Novant Health of Winston-Salem, but suffers from an out-of-date reputation as a place that caters to wealthy, insured patients.

“We need to look at it being a new day and not being so, forgive me for saying this, competitive in Charlotte,” Mark Billings, president of Presbyterian Healthcare. “(We need to be) more collaborative. We see banks working together on things all the time.”

But despite the call for change, it didn’t take long for competition to creep into the discussion at Central Piedmont Community College’s Harris Conference Center.

When the moderator half-jokingly asked whether he should get bids before having a knee transplant, Russ Guerin, a executive vice president at Carolinas HealthCare, said: “You could, I suppose. But I would just go to our hip and knee center at Mercy Hospital.”

The audience erupted in laughter at the self-serving plug.

When Billings got the floor again, he couldn’t resist.

“Since we’ve already thrown it out there,” he said, “there’s only one orthopedic hospital in the area.”

He didn’t need to explain that he was talking about Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital.

“And by the way,” Billings said, as laughter continued, “it’s the top-rated orthopedic hospital in the country.”


FlyGracefully said...

As far as hospitals go, one of the differences between the US system and the Canadian system is this concept of competition. In the US hospitals spend a lot of time and money competing. In Canada there is no competition since it's all coming out of the same coffers. Competition is good for the consumer, but increases the cost of care. Single rooms, room service, and wifi are the result of competitive pressure, but we should also collaborate and increase efficiencies when possible.