University of Utah Health Sciences is signing "affiliation" agreements with four community hospitals in Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada.
Details are scant because contracts are still under negotiation and likely to be finalized and announced in the coming months.
But the accords will allow the U. to expand its footprint, while giving smaller, general hospitals access to the school’s expertise and technological resources.
The hospitals are all community-owned facilities: St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyo.; Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center in Carson City, Nev.; Teton Valley Health Care in Driggs, Idaho; and Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg, Idaho.
"We’re not buying these hospitals. We’re not taking over these hospitals," said U. spokesman Chris Nelson. "We are trying to solidify our relationship with them."
The U. already takes patient referrals from across the Intermountain region. But by formalizing agreements, the institution expects to make the referral system more efficient.
Nelson couldn’t provide financial details, saying, "the agreements aren’t far enough along."
But, he added, "we know that to be viable in the next decade, we have got to be serving a [bigger] population."
Patient transfers are expensive, though sometimes necessary. But Madison Memorial describes the partnership as a means to deliver better care to patients in its community.
"Madison Memorial realizes that it is difficult for patients to leave the area when they need specialized medical treatments. This affiliation will aid [the hospital] in treating these patients locally," spokesman Doug McBride told Rexburg’s Standard Journal on Thursday.
Madison Memorial is a county-owned full-service hospital with 69 beds.
Nelson said U. specialists could consult Memorial’s doctors remotely through the university’s telehealth network.
"It could be anything from delivering actual clinical services to televising grand rounds for them to see," said Nelson.
The U. could also bring in providers for training in various specialties. General hospitals might deliver 50 babies a year, Nelson said, whereas the U. could deliver 50 a day.
The arrangements will also allow for the sharing of technological resources to aid hospitals in meeting new federal standards for using data to improve care. This could include granting them access to software under the U.’s licensing agreement, said Nelson.
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