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Network Affiliations Change Due to Closures

Cheryl A. Thompson

About 10 percent of U.S. community hospitals in integrated health care networks shifted affiliation over the past year, mostly due to network closures, SMG Marketing Group Inc. reported recently.

Relatively few hospitals left their network because of the latter’s failure to deliver on its promise to contain costs through integration, the Chicago-based company surmised. Any dissatisfaction that exists could stem, SMG stated, from relatively few networks having achieved clinical integration or effectively integrated their acquired physicians and medical group practices.

As part of monitoring the health care market, SMG also annually rates networks by their level of integration. Coming in number one this year is Intermountain Health Care, with headquarters in Salt Lake City. When SMG rated the network, it had 20 hospitals, nine home health agencies, two managed care organizations, 76 medical group practices, and seven nursing homes. Last year, Advocate Health System, of Oak Brook, Ill., had the top spot.

SMG noted that 27 networks, including several owned by Nashville-based Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., known as HCA—The Healthcare Company as of May 25, closed or merged since January 1999 and 18 others opened. In total, 3,058 community hospitals belong to 595 networks.