"The focus right now is on four objectives: How do we get physicians and hospitals together so that our patients will have the right access to the right care at the right time at the right cost?" she says. "We said to ourselves 'let's go back to basics. How do we improve the quality of care with this population first? How do we put the processes in place so that we are evidence-based and we can measure processes in the same way and focus on outcomes, raise the bar in terms of our outcomes and then anything can come after that."
Saunders says another target is the development of a primary and specialty care networks for the region.
"We are spread out so we are concerned about recruiting to the region, given the shortage. We are looking at specialty care networks and what specialties are needed," she says. "The medical center that I run is a teaching hospital, the second-largest in Georgia. So one of the things was what specialists might we make available for our partner hospitals. Or if there is a need to hire in a particular hospital how could we join like-minded people that have the same needs so that not everybody is investing and capitalizing 100% of that expense," she says.
The partnership also plans to examine shared services. "How can we begin to look at the redesign of care together? How do we reduce the cost through group purchasing, maybe looking at running programs under one umbrella as opposed to everyone having one," Saunders says.
The partnership will also consider forming a regional emergency medicine consortium.