Doctors and hospital executives at the University of Minnesota have agreed on a new brand name for medical facilities on campus, cementing a revised partnership intended to streamline care for patients, generate additional revenues for medical research and strengthen their position in an increasingly competitive health care marketplace.
University of Minnesota Health was announced Friday as the umbrella name for a partnership that consists of the university's academic medical center; Fairview Health Services, which manages hospital care on site; and the University of Minnesota Physicians, a large practice group that provides the doctors and medical faculty.
While the three have worked together for nearly two decades, university officials said a lack of coordination often left patients confused — contacting each organization separately, experiencing repeat tests and redundant questions, and facing discombobulated schedules that had them running back and forth to campus for various appointments.
"We want a system that is extraordinarily patient-centered," said Bobbi Daniels, chief executive officer of University of Minnesota Physicians. "We want to wrap the patients in the various types of care that they need."
Improved coordination between the hospitals and doctors, for example, could result in a single visit to campus rather than multiple ones for patients with cancer or other complex diseases — or even a decision allowing them to see providers closer to home for certain types of care. The ongoing development of a single electronic medical records system could also reduce confusion and redundant tests.
University officials expect the efficiencies to save money, which they can then invest in medical research. University of Minnesota Health is committing $90 million from its clinical revenues toward research at the academic medical center over the next decade.
A stronger tie between the hospitals and doctors could also result in better handoffs when patients are discharged and sent home so they stay healthy and don't need to return, said Carolyn Wilson, president of University of Minnesota Medical Center. That is significant considering that the federal government now penalizes hospitals if too many patients are readmitted with avoidable health problems.
"Patients are most vulnerable for readmission after they leave the hospital," Wilson said. "It's a very fragile time. For us to be communicating and working together, between the hospital and our physicians … it really enhances the ability to reduce really inappropriate readmissions."
Health care branding
The new agreement, in planning for more than a year, was delayed when Sanford Health courted Fairview in merger talks last spring.
Broad terms of the agreement were announced in May after the Sanford talks fell apart, and the U's Board of Regents voted in favor of the name and revised partnership on Friday. New signage on the hospitals and logos in advertisements are expected soon.
Wilson and Daniels will be codirecting the newly named organization, which also governs Amplatz Children's Hospital, cardiac and other university-branded specialty clinics throughout the Twin Cities, and doctors at Fairview Maple Grove Medical Center.
Fairview loses visibility
The new brand reduces the visibility of Fairview Health Services, the organization that merged with the university hospital 17 years ago and rescued it from severe financial problems.
Wilson said Fairview was willing to make the sacrifice in order to provide a clear brand for patients. That has become more important in a competitive health care environment in which Sanford, Essentia and Mayo have added their names to the marquees of numerous hospitals throughout the state.
"The University of Minnesota brand is the strongest brand," Wilson said. "For us to be in the health care business, we needed to leverage the strongest brand."
The Fairview name will remain at its other clinics and hospitals, such as Southdale in Edina and Ridges in Burnsville.
Exactly what they will call the university hospital — currently named University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview — is still to be determined.