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COLUMBUS — A recently formed partnership will allow Columbus Community Hospital to share services with nearly 60 other health care providers and boost its buying power, which should lead to better outcomes and lower costs for patients.

Columbus Community Hospital is one of nine founding members of the Regional Provider Network, which was officially formed in January with a goal of lowering overall costs and improving care at more than 50 participating health care systems across Nebraska, western Iowa and northwest Missouri.

Dr. Michael Hein, the network’s CEO, was in Columbus on Wednesday to meet with staff at the local hospital.

The 52-year-old Grand Island man described the network as a “unique” solution to health care across the region that brings providers together to work toward common goals while also allowing them to maintain local control.

The Regional Provider Network is a limited liability company governed by a 20-member board.

Because of its size, Hein said one advantage for participating health care providers will be reduced costs for certain services and supplies brought on by the group’s increased purchasing power. There’s also the opportunity to eliminate redundancies by sharing some services and other cost savings could come from negotiating insurance contracts together.

“There’s a lot of things that we will be able to do to reduce the cost of health care as an RPN,” said Mike Hansen, president and CEO at Columbus Community Hospital.

Hein, who has spent 20 years in health care, most recently as the chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs at CHI Health St. Francis in Grand Island, said the second piece of the plan is to “create health” within participating communities by focusing on preventative care and programs.

“It’s one thing to deliver great health care, which we need to do, but it’s a whole other goal to say, ‘By our existence we actually will make our communities healthier,’” he said.

Hein said a focus will be on building relationships between hospitals and physicians in each community to determine how to provide better health care. Health care providers also will partner with local employers, public health groups and schools to promote overall wellness and reduce the number of emergency room and hospital visits prompted by preventable problems.

“Right now in health care we don’t react until something walks in our door,” Hein said. “Well in some sense it’s kind of late.”

Columbus Community Hospital’s $22 million community wellness center is a key part of the local plan.

Hansen said the hospital will work with East Central District Health Department, Columbus Family YMCA and other health care providers through a collaborative, proactive approach aimed at improving area residents’ lifestyles.

The wellness center, which is expected to open around Labor Day, will serve as the host site for programs and services that target prevalent health problems and risks, such as diabetes, obesity, drug and alcohol abuse and distracted driving.

Hansen said the local hospital also is reducing its fees for some preventative tests, including mammograms, as a way to diagnose and treat patients at an earlier stage and improve long-term outcomes.

“We’re looking at ways we can improve access to those services and care by lowering the cost to our patients,” Hansen said.

“Our whole goal is to keep people out of the hospital,” he added.

By improving the overall health of residents, Hein said the cost for necessary care will decline for both the providers and their patients.

The Regional Provider Network’s other founding members include Bryan Health in Lincoln, Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk, Fremont Area Medical Center, Great Plains Regional Medical Center in North Platte, Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings, Nebraska Medicine and Methodist Health System in Omaha and Regional West Health Services in Scottsbluff.

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Tyler Ellyson is editor of The Columbus Telegram.

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