by Dave Warner

In a press release last week, the Bassett Healthcare Network announced a strategic collaboration with Optum to, “further enhance Bassett’s clinical and operational performance, and advance delivery of high-quality, convenient, and affordable health care for patients across Central New York.”

“Optum will provide Bassett Healthcare Network with a broad scope of services, including revenue cycle management, an extensive set of advanced data and analytic capabilities, and information technology (IT) to advance quality care and the patient experience.”

The release continued stating, “The relationship gives Bassett the operational capabilities and financial resiliency to meet the evolving needs of the residents of Central New York. It also positions the organization for further growth opportunities while remaining an independent, locally governed health system focused on serving the unique needs of the community and providing patient-focused care.”

The collaboration will:

  • Accelerate Bassett’s efforts to expand patient access and convenience through tools and strategies that support the patient journey, from scheduling and care navigation to payment resolution.
  • Enable Bassett to apply Optum’s analytic capabilities to deliver higher-quality, more cost-effective care powered by Optum’s data, talent, and ongoing investments in advanced analytic approaches and technology.
  • Modernize revenue cycle processes to improve administrative efficiencies, deliver transparent billing and further ensure financial stability.
  • Power digital transformation through healthcare-specific IT strategies including enhancing infrastructure and network security across all hospitals in Bassett’s care delivery network.

As part of the relationship, the release stated that approximately 500 Bassett employees performing in-scope functions will have the opportunity to transition to Optum. “These employees will continue to directly support Bassett Healthcare Network’s work and mission. With access to new skill development opportunities, technologies, and processes at Optum, these team members will continue to build on their successful work in making Bassett Healthcare Network the health system of choice for people in Central New York.”

Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, president, and chief executive officer of Bassett Healthcare Network stated, “I think this is going to be a wonderful opportunity for each of those 500 employees. Optum brings incredible capabilities for their people, leadership, growth, and training development opportunities. Things that we would never be able to provide these employees.”

Financial terms surrounding the partnership were not made public. “This partnership is not intended in any way shape or form to be any type of merger, acquisition by United or Optum. As a matter of fact, it is quite the contrary,” stated Ibrahim.

He went on to say that it solidifies Bassett as a whole and as an independent healthcare organization. “It’s going to allow us to reinvest into our organization and growth opportunities.”

Ibrahim said that there would be opportunities at Little Falls Hospital to bring services to the community that are not currently available. “While I can imagine that it’s easy to come to the conclusion that a conglomerate like an Optum coming in to work with Bassett could go that other way, it’s totally contrary to what it is intended to serve.”

He said that they are currently going through an analysis to identify the key services and clinical lines that every community really needs. “I can tell you that there will probably be an enhancement of increased primary care, some additional specialty services such as cardiology, orthopedic surgery, or women’s and children’s health.”

“Those are all areas that have already surfaced as being important to that region across Herkimer and Little Falls,” Ibrahim said. “It’s sort of challenging our internal model of essential services and trying to build up more robustly local capabilities so we don’t have to ask patients to travel and move.”

He said as they reap the benefits of the partnership and as they get more value from it, he thinks it will help sustain the organization and their mission. “It has been threatened in the past quite frankly, but this will allow us to remain an independent healthcare system. It is definitely going to spur additional growth opportunities for the organization and we have ambitious growth aspirations.”

Ibrahim said that Optum is constantly growing and that having an organization of their size and reputation in the region and Little Falls, in particular, is going to cause more positive economic development.

Mike Valli, Executive Vice President, and Northeast general manager of Optum’s provider services unit said that the company is in four out of five hospitals in one way or another. “We have a significant technology footprint and we’re bringing a lot of that to Bassett.”

“The relationship with Bassett I think is incredibly significant and is one of the more innovative and frankly more significant partnerships that Optum has in the market today, said Valli.

He went on to say that they have only done two other market partnership relationships like this prior to signing the Bassett deal. “It’s a significant opportunity for Bassett. From the Optum perspective, it’s our view that we’re here to enable community-based systems like Bassett to remain independent, delivering the best possible experience for their patients.”

Valli stated, “Bassett is really the third of what we’re envisioning is going to be a string and continuation of community systems engaging Optum in this way.”

Ibrahim said, that if there is one point to stress, it’s that, “It really does create independence for the organization and helps us continue to be a community-governed healthcare system for this region.