Per a new strategic collaboration, Optum will take over information technology and revenue cycle management operations for Cooperstown, New York-based Bassett Healthcare Network.
The organizations announced the collaboration last week, stating that Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based Optum will provide the health system with a range of services. These include tools and strategies that support the patient journey, from scheduling to payment; new analytic capabilities; modernized revenue cycle processes; and IT strategies that include enhancing infrastructure and network security across all five hospitals in Bassett’s network.
The relationship with Optum enables Bassett Healthcare Network, a rural health system, to provide the communities it serves with advanced services and capabilities while remaining independent as a locally governed system, said Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, Bassett’s president and CEO, in an email.
“The overarching goal of the collaboration is to advance quality care and experiences for patients in an innovative, patient-centric environment,” he said. “To do so, Bassett Healthcare Network and Optum will work together to increase the efficiency of business and clinical administrative operations.”
About 500 Bassett employees performing IT and revenue cycle management functions will have the opportunity to transition to Optum, though the health services company will oversee those operations whether the employees decide to move to Optum or remain with Bassett, Ibrahim said.
“[The health system] wanted to provide this option to its employees but is also encouraging them to transition to Optum as this is an exciting opportunity for these employees to grow and have access to new resources and opportunities while continuing to serve the local Bassett community,” he said.
The collaboration is part of a broader approach that Optum is employing with providers. The company is working with health systems across the country —including John Muir Health in Walnut Creek, California, and Boulder Community Health in Colorado — to create partnerships that allow systems to stay independent, while tapping into the scale, capabilities and capital that Optum has to offer, said Mike Valli, executive vice president and Northeast general manager for Optum’s provider services, in an email.
These partnerships can be especially beneficial for rural health systems, many of which find themselves in dire financial circumstances. Nearly half (46%) of rural hospitals have a negative operating margin, according to a report by The Chartis Center for Rural Health published in February.
“Rural systems, especially, are struggling, and partnering with Optum enables Bassett not only to remain independent, but to thrive in their market,” Valli said.
Though the most recent publicly available tax filings for Bassett Healthcare are from 2018, they do indicate some financial difficulties. The rural health system posted $166,184 in revenue that year, down from $1.2 million in 2017.
“Like all hospitals and health systems, Bassett Healthcare Network faces increasing economic pressures, which require strategic solutions like this [collaboration] to maintain its independence and position the organization for success,” Valli said.
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