Its Laboratory Alliance Lab Outreach Business was Sold in 2003

Back in the mid-1990s, Cincinnati was the location for a multi-hospital clinical laboratory consolidation that was one of the first and biggest of its time. Now, all but one of the original organizing hospitals of The Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati have gone their separate ways.

The original goal was for the alliance to help its not-for-profit health members compete economically. Now this story may turn out to be a cautionary tale about the perils of alliances where health entities share operations but not governance.

Back in 2003, financial struggles of The Health Alliance contributed to its decision to sell ownership of the outreach business of Alliance Laboratory Services, the consolidated clinical laboratory organization, to LabOne, Inc. LabOne’s ownership of this medical laboratory later passed to Quest Diagnostics, Incorporated (NYSE: DGX) when LabOne was itself acquired by Quest Diagnostics in 2005. (See The Dark Report, August 22, 2005, “Quest Pays $934 Million In Acquisition of LabOne.”)

It was in 1997, when The Health Alliance played an important role in organizing HealthBridge, one of the nation’s first operational examples of a RHIO (regional health information organization, now commonly referred to as an HIE, or health information exchange). From the start, HealthBridge collected laboratory test data and other patient information across multiple hospitals and providers while giving access to participating physicians throughout the greater Cincinnati region.

Today, HealthBridge reports that it “provides connectivity for more than 28 hospitals, 5,500 physician users, 17 local health departments, 700 physician offices and clinics, as well as nursing homes, independent labs, radiology centers, and others.” Included in the data it handles are laboratory, radiology, transcription, and ADT (admissions, discharge, and transfer).

What distinguished The Health Alliance from most other multi-hospital systems formed during the 1990s is that it was a working partnership of independently-owned hospitals. By contrast, most integrated delivery networks created in the 1990s were made up of hospitals owned by the parent health system.

Founded in 1994, The Health Alliance originally included Christ Hospital and the St. Luke Hospital, as well as Jewish Hospital, Fort Hamilton Hospital, and University Hospital. The vision was to create a cooperative network that would help the members compete economically and improve access to care in area. Christ Hospital left The Health Alliance in 2007 and is now an independent entity. The St. Luke Hospitals left in 2008 to become part of St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Northern Kentucky.

Next, in March of this year, Fort Hamilton Hospital announced that it would leave The Health Alliance to pursue negotiations to join Kettering Health Network even as the Jewish Foundation completed the sale of Jewish Hospital in Kenwood to Mercy Health Partners. Those actions left the University of Cincinnati as the sole member. The university recently created a corporate entity, UC Health, to operate University Hospital, the region’s only academic medical center, as well as West Chester Medical Center and physician groups UC Physicians and Alliance Primary Care.

The Health Alliance will continue to be a joint venture partner in other entities, including the Lindner Center of Hope psychiatric facility and University Pointe Surgical Hospital. It will provide services to University Hospital, West Chester Medical Center, and Alliance Primary Care “well into the future,” according to a news release from the Alliance.

Thus, The Health Alliance will continue to operate, but on a much smaller scale. Not much remains of the consolidated clinical laboratory organization that was one of the first strategic initiatives successfully implemented by The Health Alliance upon its formation in 1994. That will not be true of HealthBridge, however. Each month, this HIE moves 3 million clinical messages involving laboratory, radiology, and transcription data to some 5,500 physicians in greater Cincinnati.

 

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