Northwell, Connecticut health network buddy up

All's Northwell: The Western Connecticut Health Network, including its flagship Danbury Hospital, is partnering up with the Northwell Health system.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

The Empire State’s busiest healthcare provider has established a new foothold in the Constitution State.

New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health – New York’s biggest healthcare network by number of patients and number of providers, as well as the state’s largest private employer – has inked a “collaboration agreement” with the Western Connecticut Health Network, a patient-centered healthcare organization with hospitals in Danbury, New Milford and Norwalk.

The partnership, announced Thursday, is designed primarily to give WCHN – and its 6,300 total employees, including roughly 1,300 physicians and specialists – better access to high-quality care in its coverage area, which includes western Connecticut and adjacent New York counties.

Both health systems will remain autonomous and in control of their own operations, assets, liabilities and finances, according to Northwell Health, while maintaining their respective executive-leadership teams and internal governance.

Taking a slow and steady approach, they will “jointly explore developing new clinical programs and services, collaborate in providing population health services and leverage the expertise of each other’s health systems,” according to a joint statement released Thursday.

Essentially, it’s a true collaboration  a give-and-take alliance meant to benefit both sides. But the real winner is WCHN, which now plugs into Northwell Health’s vastly larger purchasing channels, data analytics, supply-chain management protocols and copious workforce-development opportunities.

Indeed, the partnership is principally intended to “enable WCHN to grow clinical and operational efficiencies, create clinical- and professional-development opportunities and further strengthen its ability to deliver high-quality care,” according to Northwell Health, which focuses its operations on the Long Island, New York City and Westchester County regions.

Western Connecticut Health Network President and CEO John Murphy noted Thursday that the Northwell Health alliance is the latest in a line of fresh partnerships designed to modernize the Danbury-based healthcare system’s operations and services.

“We are proactively managing our transition to value-based care by collaborating with local and regional organizations that share our vision and values,” Murphy said. “Leveraging [Northwell Health’s] areas of expertise will enable us to sustain excellence and growth as the healthcare industry rapidly evolves.”

Other recent WCHN collaborations include an alliance with the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, announced in January, and a cancer-care partnership with New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, announced in November.

In Northwell Health, Murphy added, WCHN has a partner that exponentially super-sizes that transitional effort.

John Murphy: Northwell alliance speeds things up.

“This exciting relationship with Northwell will help us to advance our mission quickly, efficiently and cost effectively,” the CEO said.

In return, Northwell Health buddies up to an out-of-state health system with a strong reputation, a distinguished medical staff and an impressive range of operational expertise – including  70 medical practices under the Western Connecticut Medical Group banner, the globally recognized WCHN Biomedical Research Institute and Western Connecticut Home Care, formerly the Danbury Visiting Nurse Association.

Combine all that with an impressive footprint stretching from western Connecticut into New York’s Hudson Valley, and WCHN becomes an ideal partner for Northwell Health – or, as Northwell President and CEO Michael Dowling put it, “a great organization with a long history of delivering extraordinary care.”

“Working collaboratively, our goal is to help WCHN prosper in this incredibly complex healthcare environment and improve the health of their communities, which is at the heart of our mission in the New York metropolitan area,” Dowling said Thursday.

But his health system – which already boasts 23 hospitals, roughly 650 outpatient facilities and some 63,000 total employees – will also prosper, according to the Northwell Health CEO, who noted WCHN “shares many of the same attributes and qualities (as Northwell), including an open and transparent culture and a focus on physician and employee engagement.”

“This collaboration is beneficial for both organizations,” Dowling said.