Last month, UC Health announced its intent to form a new joint venture with Intermountain Healthcare to establish a large Clinically Integrated Network (CIN) in Colorado.  The stated intent of this joint venture is to accelerate the transition to value-based care and to facilitate introduction of new health insurance options for Coloradans.

Monument Health is naturally fielding questions about what this means to our organization and to Western Colorado.  Monument Health is also a CIN, organized as a joint venture between Primary Care Partners and St. Mary’s Medical Center—now a part of Intermountain Health.  Monument Health is now one of the largest CINs in the State of Colorado and has a robust number of partnerships with insurance companies and employer groups to support 75,000 patients here locally.  Many of these relationships are quite advanced in terms of their level of sophistication and have proven their value improving health outcomes and effectiveness reducing the cost of care, a fact that we are incredibly proud of.  Monument Health has truly forged the path toward value-based care across Western Colorado, and serves as a model for this type of work statewide.

As a standalone entity operated by an independent board of directors, Monument Health is not a part of this initial joint venture.  However, as the new joint venture is stood up, we will be looking at ways to effectively partner together.  Partnership could take many potential forms, giving us a variety of options and ways to make this effective.  

I would like to emphasize that as our top priority, Monument Health will always be looking to positively impact our local communities here in Western Colorado.  Population health is local and requires strong local engagement with providers, employers, and patients to achieve desired impact.  

I believe that there could be many potential benefits to Western Colorado via partnerships with this new CIN.  One of the biggest benefits is the size and scale that it offers, which could allow us to partner in deeper and more meaningful ways with insurance companies.  Insurance is all about risk, and taking on significant risk becomes easier the larger your population is.  Our self-insured employer groups know this fact quite well.  If we can spread risk across larger populations, we can more meaningfully engage in cost reduction efforts in partnership with insurance companies and pass along those savings to patients and employers.

Another possible benefit could be access to a larger network of providers, particularly around specialties that have longer wait times here or require travel.  Our goal is to keep care local whenever possible, but when travel becomes necessary for highly specialized care, we want to ensure our patients are taken care of and transitioned seamlessly.  That is an area we will seek to explore.

The addition of another insurance option could also bring big benefits here to the Western Slope.  We look forward to learning more about Intermountain’s health plan, SelectHealth, and how that may operate in tandem with this new joint venture.  Monument Health would welcome partnership with SelectHealth, as we have with many other payers who are willing to engage with us in value-based care work.  

The type of work I’m describing upends the traditional paradigm of healthcare.  CINs provide the framework and accountability to align the competing interests of providers, hospitals, and insurance companies around the same goals focused on prevention and reducing the overall cost of care, which results in lower prices and improved outcomes for patients. Without CINs, these competing interests would not have the incentive or, quite frankly, the ability to change their models of business. Doctors would not be able to shift from seeing an overly high volume of patients, at what’s referred to as a “churn and burn” pace (fee-for-service), and insurance companies would continue to push for as few visits and subsequent claims as possible.  We envision a different future in healthcare and are working to promote that via Monument Health.  I believe this new joint venture CIN will share similar goals and aspirations.

The work we’ve accomplished in Western Colorado didn’t happen overnight. It’s accomplished through consistency and local relationships. As Intermountain and UC Health begin this journey together, we are excited to support their efforts and share lessons learned.  I look forward to exploring opportunities with this new entity around ways to broaden the population we serve while increasing the resources and data available to Monument Health. With a broader population, risk can be spread, and more effective health outcomes may be achieved. 

In the meantime, Monument Health will continue to charge onward toward our mission of lower healthcare costs and preventive care promoting a healthier population. We will continue to explore local growth opportunities and continue to prioritize our very important relationships with local employers.  

The future is bright for us, and bright for Western Colorado.  We are honored to be a part of this community.

Ashley Thurow

Executive Director