Area hospitals get $1.2M to foster overhauls

Capital Region hospitals were awarded $1.2 million this week to plan an approach to health care that

Capital Region hospitals were awarded $1.2 million this week to plan an approach to health care that reduces avoidable hospitalizations and cuts costs.

The funds are part of more than $21.5 million the state Department of Health doled out to 43 hospitals and health systems as part of an agreement reached earlier this year with the federal government to reinvest $8 billion in Medicaid savings. The money will be used to support hospital overhauls and expand care over five years through a program called Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment.

The two Capital Region hospitals to get a share — Ellis Medicine was awarded $500,000 and Albany Medical Center $700,000 — must use their grants as part of larger alliances with other regional health care systems.

In Ellis’ case, this means the Schenectady hospital system must continue to explore savings and efficiencies through a new regional alliance it announced in June with St. Peter’s Health Partners in Albany. The two hospital systems committed to work together in delivering better, coordinated care to their communities through a limited liability company called Innovative Health Alliance of New York. Other providers were invited to join, including St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam, Hometown Health in Schenectady and the Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Center in Albany, among others.

“We were always planning to apply for this money as part of a larger coalition,” said Ellis Medicine President and CEO Jim Connolly. “A lot of what we’ll end up doing is built on what we’ve already started.”

An example, he said, would be smoking cessation and asthma programs the hospital is pursuing with other local partners as a result of a community-wide health assessment undertaken last year. These push preventative care and education as a means to keeping people out of the emergency room.

Albany Medical Center and Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson submitted separate applications for a piece of the pie. The state, however, awarded a combined $700,000 to both on the condition they consolidate into one performing provider system serving Albany, Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Ulster and Warren counties.

The hospitals were already trending that way. In July, they announced they were pursuing a strategic alliance that would allow for much broader coordination of care.

Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, which serves Schoharie, Montgomery and Fulton counties but mostly the Mohawk Valley, also received $760,000 to pursue partnerships with other health care organizations, including Faxton-St. Luke’s Hospital in Utica.

Adirondack Health Institute in Queensbury, which serves Fulton and Saratoga counties but mostly the North Country, also received $891,000.

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