WellStar moves to restart new center
by Kim Isaza
November 15, 2012 11:07 PM | 2929 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — In a second major move this week, WellStar announced Wednesday that it will restart the Center for Health Transformation, which was created by Newt Gingrich in 2003 as a think tank.

The new CHT will be a nonprofit collaborative among 20 non-competing, not-for-profit health systems in the Southeast, with a goal of sharing ways to improve quality and access to care while reducing costs.

The Marietta-based health system paid $20,000 for rights to the trademark, trade name and Web address of the CHT.

WellStar has sent invitations to eight other systems. Only one of the eight, Piedmont Healthcare — which on Monday announced its own collaboration with WellStar — is in Georgia. WellStar has asked the eight to reply within two weeks. After that founding group forms, invitations will be sent to other, already pre-screened systems.

The 20 systems that join will pay dues of about $50,000 per year, which equals $1 million in annual revenue. Members will also likely put in about $50,000 each in start-up costs, WellStar CEO Reynold Jennings said.

Gingrich’s role in the center is unknown, Jennings said.

“Until such time as (Gingrich) announces to the public what his professional concentration will be, we have no way of knowing whether there’s any alignment of that with the CHT,” Jennings said. “We’ll have an advisory board of five renowned members. If he’s a candidate for that, he’ll get a fair review. This would be an unpaid advisory board of experts.”

The center will be physically located at WellStar headquarters off Windy Hill Road, and headed by Robin T. Wilson, M.D., a WellStar senior vice president and its chief health innovation officer.

“This is a new niche we’re trying to provide as a resource for health systems,” Wilson said. “They all want to be successful in health care reform and we all want that, collectively, for our patients.”

Jennings said the CHT would likely have four or five employees in addition to Wilson.

Although the center is not one-of-a-kind, Jennings said he is not aware of any similar entities in the Southeast.

“This is relatively new, to have a tight, multi-state collaborative,” he said.

Said Wilson: “We want to be concentrated in the Southeast, and with systems in non-competing markets, so systems can come together have more open dialogue and transparency and not feel they’re at risk of weakening their local position.”

Govind Hariharan, Ph.D., a professor of economics at Kennesaw State University, said the Center for Health Transformation as it worked under Gingrich, was doing “very, very interesting work” in places like Columbus, Ga., where it helped the city government and other groups educate senior citizens about how to manage their health more effectively.

“This ties in so well to what was most recently announced, the Piedmont collaborative,” Hariharan said. “All of this fits in the same mission.”

Hariharan said he and Gingrich were part of a panel put together several years ago by the late WellStar CEO Robert Lipson, M.D., whose vision “was to make WellStar the place to go in understanding how innovation happens in health care.”

“It’s nice to see that some of those things that have been worked on for a period of time are now coming to fruition, even though there have been leadership changes,” Hariharan said.

Jennings said better health care provided at lower cost will ultimately be the responsibility of individuals.

“One of the terms coming out now is that health care systems have acted like parents, and we need to become coaches,” Jennings said. “We need to help people take responsibility for what they eat, what they drink, how much they exercise, whether they’re taking their medicines properly and seeing doctors on time. Coaching them on why they have these problems can play a major role in solving these problems.”
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