CMMC looking at partnership with Billings Clinic

By: 
DEB HILL
News-Argus Managing Editor
CMMC CEO Mike Dowdy

In a press release issued Monday, the Central Montana Medical Center and Billings Clinic announced signing a letter of intent to explore a formal partnership.

According to the press release, if the partnership comes to pass, CMMC will join 11 other health care organizations across Montana and Wyoming affiliated with Billings Clinic, including facilities in Big Timber, Harlowton and Roundup.

Dave Phillips, chair of the CMMC board, told the News-Argus the letter of intent came after nearly two years of work by the board.

“This has been a very deliberate and methodical process,” Phillips said. “As a small rural hospital, in view of everything happening with healthcare nationally, we could see it was going to become very hard to be sustainable in the future without some kind of partnership with a larger organization.”

Phillps said the board sent request for proposals to five hospital systems originally, asking what they could do to assist with issues CMMC is facing such as recruitment, training, group purchasing and new technology required for electronic medical records.

“We heard back from four of those institutions,” Phillips said. “We invited them to make presentations here in the late summer/early fall of 2014. From that we reduced the number to three, then two, and two months ago we began structuring the non-binding letter of intent with Billings Clinic.”

Phillips said it could take four to six months for the process to result in a partnership agreement. If it does, he said he and others on the board are adamant about one thing: local control.

“It’s important to us to retain our identity as Central Montana’s medical center,” Phillips aid. “We want a governing board with fiduciary responsibility that includes local people to make sure our smaller communities and rural areas are represented.”

The bottom line, Phillips said, is to “insure the best medical care possible.”

 

Both CEOs agree with partnership idea

CMMC Chief Executive Officer Mike Dowdy said he feels Billings Clinic is a good fit for CMMC’s culture and operating needs.

“We are not being merged or bought out by Billings Clinic,” Dowdy said. “There are no planned layoffs. What we seek is an affiliation to provide better ways to connect through technology and better access to care for our patients. We went through a lot of due diligence over the past year, and when it came down to it, this is the best relationship for us.”

Dowdy said if the partnership moves forward, CMMC will need to transition to new medical software, the same system in use at Billings Clinic, so patient records will be available to health care providers at both facilities.

“I’m optimistic,” Dowdy said. “This is good for long-term sustainability for health care in Central Montana and for patient care. That’s the most important thing.”

Billings Clinic CEO Nicholas Wolter, MD, said he is a strong believer in the importance of rural medical facilities.

“I believe in in letting the local board and physicians lead, as they are the best at determining the direction CMMC needs to go,” Wolter said.

Wolter, who practiced pulmonary critical care before he became an administrator, said his experience as a resident in a small clinic in rural upstate New York shaped his philosophy.

“I have a passion for rural health care,” he said. “Can we help the rural hospital, can we help with patient care – that’s what drives our decision process.”

According to the press release, Billings Clinic’s “strong reputation for quality and the experience of partnering with multiple rural Critical Access Hospitals” led to the CMMC board’s decision to explore a partnership agreement.

 

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