Baltimore's Saint Agnes affiliates with university medical system

April 1, 2016


Vander Kolk


Saint Agnes Healthcare and the University of Maryland Medical System have affiliated in order to integrate their clinical work and to share resources.

The two Baltimore health care providers plan to work together to improve health care services, strengthen clinical programs, share financial and staff resources, reduce service duplication and manage costs. The university medical system includes 12 Maryland health systems and hospitals; the system's Baltimore metro area facilities will have the most involvement in the affiliation. Saint Agnes includes a teaching hospital and medical group.

Bonnie Phipps is group operating executive and senior vice president for Saint Agnes' parent, St. Louis-based Ascension. She said the affiliation between Saint Agnes and the university medical system is a 50-50 arrangement. The partners will not merge assets, but each will fund the initiatives they pursue equally. It is too early for the partners to say how much capital they will be investing.

Saint Agnes and the university medical system have formed an advisory council of eight leaders, with equal representation from each partner. That council, which reports to the boards of the partners, will evaluate potential projects and will help guide the work.

"This gives us the structure and opportunity to talk about 'what if,'" said Keith Vander Kolk, Saint Agnes president and chief executive. He said the affiliation will function like a think tank, with the council members looking at ideas in several broad areas. These areas include improving the partners' quality and financial performances, using population health management strategies to close gaps in health care access and health outcomes and partnering with community organizations to address poor schools, inadequate access to healthy foods and a lack of good jobs in many pockets of poverty in the Baltimore area.

The partners also will develop physician practices and ambulatory services and collaborate on graduate medical education and other clinician education. Vander Kolk said Saint Agnes and the University of Maryland Medical System have yet to determine the specifics of projects they will pursue in these areas.

Vander Kolk said Saint Agnes and the university medical system will share data with each other and integrate their data systems as they work together to identify and address the issues in the community.

Dr. Adrian Long noted that much of the partners' efforts will focus on West Baltimore, a shared service area of Saint Agnes and the university medical center. He recently retired as Saint Agnes chief medical officer. According to information from the West Baltimore Primary Care Access Collaborative, West Baltimore has deep-seated socioeconomic challenges and the worst indicators associated with the social determinants of health, when compared to almost every other Maryland community.

Community assessments conducted by the West Baltimore collaborative show that West Baltimore has the highest percentage of preventable emergency department visits and the worst rates of asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, when that community is compared with the broader city of Baltimore and the state.

Saint Agnes and the university medical system plan to work together to reach the people most in need, said Vander Kolk. They will be coordinating their efforts with those of Bon Secours Baltimore Health System, which also is active in West Baltimore.

Ascension's goal is to have all of its hospitals create "regional clinically integrated systems of care so that those hospitals can better serve their communities," according to information from Saint Agnes.


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