The Harris Health System Board of Trustees voted today to give its medical school partners notice of termination of the existing agreement without cause, triggering a five-year wind down. During this wind-down period, the parties will work to negotiate a new partnership with updated terms.
“We’ve been operating and negotiating with the schools under a framework that was developed 25 years ago,” said George V. Masi, president and CEO, Harris Health System. “The existing contract language no longer reflects the realities of today’s medical landscape and does not lend itself to the goals of our strategic plan, which include modernizing our delivery of healthcare services to the community.”
Today’s action starts the current agreement’s five-year wind-down provision with the Baylor College of Medicine, which staffs Ben Taub Hospital, as well as with the McGovern School of Medicine at UTHeath, which staffs Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. Both schools provide physician faculty, residents and medical students for these two hospitals, as well as Harris Health clinics.
“The wind down gives us ample time to craft a new partnership that will be in the best interests of Harris County patients, taxpayers and the community,” said Anne Clutterbuck, chair of the board. “A new contract will give us the ability to implement strategies for the delivery of healthcare services that are in the best interests of the people we serve.”
This relationship has allowed Baylor and UTHealth medical schools to give their physicians-in-training hands-on experience in hospital settings under the supervision of faculty physicians. In return, Harris County patients have received high-quality healthcare.
The two medical schools negotiate with Harris Health through a joint contracting entity, Affiliated Medical Services (AMS). Harris Health is dedicated to working with AMS and the schools to implement a patient-centered approach in which reimbursements would reward improvements in patient experience and clinical outcomes over providing an outdated fee-for-service structure.
“Change is necessary to see continued improvements in safety, effectiveness and the delivery of high-quality healthcare,” Clutterbuck said.
Clutterbuck added that a patient-centered focus is a proven superior approach mandated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Masi noted that with more than 60 percent of Harris Health patients uninsured, and more than 30 percent qualified for Medicaid and Medicare, the need to change to a more efficient system is urgent.
“New negotiations are expected to begin immediately,” Masi said. “We continue to hope to reach an agreement with Baylor and UTHealth to craft a new partnership.”