It has been just over a year since we announced the impending affiliation between Central Washington Hospital and Wenatchee Valley Medical Center, and we reached an important milestone on Jan. 1.
In the past year, there has been a significant amount of work and planning behind the scenes to obtain legal and regulatory approvals and establish the organizational structure. Although we are still waiting on some of the approvals, such as nonprofit status from the IRS, before Confluence Health (the new nonprofit organization being formed by the affiliation) can begin functioning as a fully integrated health care delivery system that includes inpatient and outpatient services, we moved forward with Phase 1 of the affiliation on Jan. 1. That means we began operating under a shared management structure. Although Central Washington Hospital and Wenatchee Valley Medical Center will remain two financially independent organizations until Phase 2 of the affiliation, this will allow us to begin to join efforts as we plan and manage operations now, with the goal of functioning as a combined organization in the future.
This is a key first step to realizing the benefits we want to achieve through the affiliation. I want to assure you that the board of directors and leadership team of Confluence Health are driven by the desire to create a health care delivery system for residents of North Central Washington that delivers better care than the sum of the two separate organizations. The safest, highest quality, most cost effective health care is what every community member wants and deserves.
With that vision in mind, this first step allows us to work together on several important initiatives. These include the creation of a regional care system, with common points of access (inpatient and outpatient); collaborative care between patients, physicians, nurses, and educators to most effectively manage each individuals’ chronic health conditions; standardization in the transfer of care between the inpatient and outpatient care providers; and maximizing safety and efficiency in all areas, including our operating rooms.
For patients, you likely will not see any significant changes in the care that is provided. The changes described above will be a journey of many small improvements over the next few months, involving all the employees of Confluence Health, Central Washington Hospital, and Wenatchee Valley Medical Center. You may see the Confluence Health name and logo, but the majority of the visible changes will take place with Phase 2, which will occur after we receive all of the necessary regulatory approvals and are able to operate as one combined integrated organization. This note is to make you aware of where Confluence Health is at present. We want to do this right, and look forward to your comments and suggestions about how to do it better.
Peter Rutherford, MD, is CEO of Confluence Health.