Wellmont's Annual Report Updates Strategic Options Analysis, Details $86 Million Community Benefit

Wellmont Health System is about halfway through its strategic options analysis, a process that has yielded positive comments about the organization's clinical quality and low cost structure.

Earlier this year, Wellmont issued a request for proposals from organizations that might want to align in some fashion with the health system. Nine health systems submitted a proposal, but three of them are no longer being considered because they did not meet the guiding principles the board of directors has established for this review.

Due to confidentiality agreements, names of interested parties cannot be disclosed.

Buddy Scott, the board's chairman, said Kaufman Hall & Associates, a highly respected national healthcare consulting firm, will guide the board and Wellmont's administration through the evaluation of each submission and further narrow the field.

"The board has taken the correct approach by evaluating our future as an organization while we are in a position of clinical strength and relative financial stability," Scott said. "We expect several more months of research and discussion are needed before our board will determine final recommendations this fall. This takes considerable time and effort given the substance of these proposals and the importance of the task."

If the board chooses to align with an organization, the present timeline estimates a formal agreement might be reached as early as December.

Scott said the extensive interest in potentially aligning with Wellmont illustrates the success the organization has achieved.

"Our co-workers are to be commended for excellent work in service to our patients - which is the greatest testament to Wellmont's strong reputation," he said. "Among the many compliments we have received are our low cost of care, clinical quality and our approaches to new payment models. This is evidenced through Wellmont Integrated Network - our accountable care organization - and through other pay-for-performance arrangements with insurance companies."

Scott and Denny DeNarvaez, Wellmont's president and CEO, have provided additional context about the alignment options in a letter accompanying the health system's fiscal 2013 report to the communities it serves. The letter and the report, which spotlights Wellmont's community benefit and work to further elevate care, is available at www.wellmont.org/ForwardWithVision.

Reinforcing its mission to deliver superior care with compassion, Wellmont provided an $86 million community benefit, including $70 million in uncompensated care, to the region during the fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2013.

Wellmont also continued to enhance its facilities and equipment with the wise use of its financial resources. Despite significant reimbursement cuts from the federal government and the failure of Tennessee and Virginia to expand Medicaid, Wellmont has advanced the quality of care with multiple initiatives that will benefit patients.

"We are extremely proud of our health system's performance as we strengthen Wellmont to meet the needs of our valued patients while remaining true to our mission, vision and values," said Denny DeNarvaez, president and CEO. "As this report shows, we work hand in hand with residents and businesses in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to deliver exceptional care in our facilities and positively influence the health status of our region. It's a great story to tell."

A not-for-profit health system, Wellmont writes off all charges for patients with incomes less than twice the federal poverty guidelines and 60 percent for uninsured patients who earn more than that amount. In all, Wellmont provided $70 million in charity care, but that was not the full extent of its assistance to the region.

Wellmont's community benefit included $6 million for health fairs, free seminars and screenings; assistance at Remote Area Medical clinics; and community events such as Camp Caterpillar, a children's grief recovery program. During the fiscal year, Wellmont also provided about $759,000 to local United Way agencies, YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Heart Association.

The health system continued to work with local emergency medical services agencies to expedite care, through the region's only Level One Heart Attack Network, for people who might suffer a heart attack. The network is a program of the Wellmont CVA Heart Institute.

"We are grateful to be the provider of choice for our region and appreciate our important role not only as caregivers but as a player in bolstering the community's quality of life," DeNarvaez said. "Whether we are providing financial assistance to an organization or developing new programs, such as Wellmont LiveWell, we are driven by a desire to help people lead healthy, enjoyable lives."

For those who need medical care, Wellmont continued to make appropriate investments in new and current facilities and advanced technology.

With the health system's adoption of Epic and MyWellmont, patients are experiencing the benefit of having one electronic health record no matter where they access care at a Wellmont facility. If a patient needs care at Lonesome Pine Hospital one day and a Wellmont Medical Associates office in Kingsport and heart institute office in Bristol on other days, physicians will have access to his or her continuum of care with the Epic platform.

MyWellmont, a free online portal gives patients access to a significant portion of their medical record and helps facilitate more engagement with healthcare providers.

Other investments include the Leonard Family Comprehensive Breast Center at Bristol Regional Medical Center and new radiation oncology technology with Trilogy at Holston Valley Medical Center and the upcoming installation of TrueBeam at Bristol Regional. In addition, Wellmont opened urgent care facilities in Kingsport and Bristol and remodeled emergency departments at Mountain View Regional Medical Center and Hawkins County Memorial Hospital.

Wellmont also reached out to its patients by bringing life-altering facilities closer to them. The Wellmont Cancer Institute opened an office and treatment facility in Johnson City, and the heart institute added offices in Elizabethton and Lebanon, Virginia.

"Our leadership and co-workers have exhibited great skill in finding innovative ways to deliver care and ensure outstanding results for our patients," DeNarvaez said. "This has been challenging with revenue decreases from the Affordable Care Act, other federal cuts and the unwillingness of Tennessee and Virginia to expand Medicaid. But everyone in our health system has worked hard to respond by looking for new approaches that are serving our patients well."