CMMC signs affiliation with Billings Clinic

Randall Gibb, Billings Clinic CEO, laughs with Dave Phillips, the Central Montana Medical Center Governing Board Chair, after the two sign an agreement affiliating CMMC with the clinic.

Photo by Jenny Gessaman

Central Montana Medical Center signed an affiliation agreement with Billings Clinic Monday afternoon, closing the local hospital’s three-year search for a partner.

CMMC Governing Board Chair Dave Phillips was clear on why the provider wanted affiliate.

“I think our basic motivation was thinking about sustainability for a hospital of this size,” Phillips said. “As we move forward, it was going to be harder to be viable and sustainable alone, and we did not want to get in a situation where patient care suffered.”

CMMC originally sent out five requests for partnership, and narrowed the pool down to Billings Clinic last September, according to Phillips.

“For us as a board, it was a feeling of fit, it was the culture of the two organizations,” he said. “I think the thing they said that really sold us was, ‘One size does not fit all. We want to structure this to fit you.’”

Roughly a year of fine-tuning led to the agreement signed Monday.

Effects on patients
Phillips reported the affiliation would affect patients. One change will be CMMC’s expansion on the number and type of visiting Billings Clinic physicians.

“I think as we go along, our Central Montana community will have more access to medical care and specialized services,” he said. “We have lots of visiting physicians now, and we’ll increase that going forward.”

Billings Clinic CEO Dr. Randall Gibbs said improving patient care was what his hospital focused when structuring the affiliation.

“From our perspective, it is really centered on how we could provide better clinical care to the community,” he said.

Gibbs explained an increase in visiting physicians eliminates the need to travel and keeps people close to home.

“The ultimate goal is to keep people as close to home as possible,” he said.

Gibbs said the affiliation would also make it easier to use CMMC’s expanded services. CMMC is migrating to the computer program Billings Clinic uses to keep electronic medical records, making it simple for a physician from either provider to access a patient’s complete record.

Gibbs added the affiliation removes the requirement of consent forms in order to share medical records between the two hospitals.

“It will seem seamless to the patient and the doctor,” he said. “It makes it easier to go back and forth [between the providers].”

Effects on CMMC
The hospitals’ joint press release describes the affiliation agreement as a “new governance arrangement.” Phillips said the idea was simpler than it sounded.

He first clarified the affiliation would not affect jobs at CMMC.

“If we’re successful in developing and growing the services of CMMC, we could actually grow,” he said.

Phillips said the idea of shared governance refers, in part, to standardizing practices. It also refers to changes in the upper ranks of CMMC management, according to Billings Clinic Foundation President Jim Duncan.

“In this situation, we have a managerial agreement where we will employ the CEO [at CMMC],” he said. “CMMC will also have two board members from Billings Clinic on its [governing] board.”

Billings Clinic will also be sharing some of the resources it is able to access as a large-scale operation. Duncan said the clinic’s size gives it large discounts when buying medical supplies, a purchasing power it can now share with CMMC.

Billings Clinic is also big enough to offer its employees a number of education and leadership development programs. Duncan reported CMMC could now access those resources as well.

While the affiliation gives the local hospital new tools, Duncan said the addition of CMMC as its twelfth affiliate would also strengthen Billings Clinic.

“Affiliating and partnering helps physician organizations of all sizes better navigate the uncertain road ahead for healthcare,” he said.

For Phillips, and the rest of CMMC, that road now looks a little more predictable.

“It came to me a few years ago: we better be proactive instead of reactive,” he said.



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