Woman’s Hospital seeks to partner with large system to boost technology access

Woman’s Hospital is evaluating four proposals from Louisiana-based health care systems interested in partnering with the hospital on an affiliation that would enable cost sharing on equipment and technology, specifically, the pricey EPIC medical records platform that a growing number of providers are using and patients are demanding.

In June, Woman’s issued a broadly worded request for information locally and nationally, seeking proposals describing what such an affiliation might look like.

Four hospital systems, all in state, submitted responses, Woman’s CEO Dr. Barbara Griffith says.

“There are multiple systems, locally and nationally, who are using the most advanced technology in electronic medical records, which most people believe is EPIC,” she says. “So we need to both understand who would want to share their technology with us and then assess which organization is the best cultural fit and optimal partner to help us advance our technology.”

Woman’s issued the procurement as an RFI, rather than a specific request for proposals, because the board and administration wanted to keep the process open-ended and solicit a variety of creative solutions, Griffith says.

The hospital retained national health care consulting firm Deloitte to help draft the RFI in late March, almost immediately after the largest independent OB/GYN group practice in the market—Louisiana Women’s Healthcare—announced it was being acquired by Ochsner.

The LWH announcement sent shock waves through the Baton Rouge medical community and especially at Woman’s, where LWH occupies three floors of the hospital’s Physician’s Office Building and performs more than 62% of all deliveries.

Though LWH plans to continue delivering babies at Woman’s, the deal has ramifications for the competitive local market, in which Ochsner—the largest health care system in Louisiana and largest private employer in the state—is trying to aggressively grow its footprint. By owning LWH, Ochsner effectively has a relationship with LWH’s more than 70,000 patients.

LWH officials have said gaining access to EPIC was their main reason for joining with Ochsner. Woman’s, which is a relatively small hospital with 165 beds, explored buying access to EPIC but ultimately concluded that at more than $200 million over the next seven years, it was too expensive.

“The technology for health care organizations is incredibly expensive and as a health care organization it is reasonable to consider working with others in order to share their technology and manage the cost,” Griffith says. “So we are continuing to pursue our strategic plan but are taking into consideration that a large part of the physicians and patients who will deliver here are served by a larger system’s technology tools.”

Griffith declines to name the four systems that responded to the RFI, but sources familiar with the process say Ochsner is among them.

Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas declines to comment on whether Ochsner submitted a proposal to Woman’s but says, hypothetically, “if we were invited to partner with Woman’s, certainly we would be interested.”

Whatever the shape of a future affiliation may ultimately look like, Griffith says Woman’s is not for sale and is not looking for a buyer—just a partner to help it invest in state-of-the-art technology.

Deloitte is helping the hospital evaluate the responses to the RFI.

“It is a complex process to assess each one and fully understand the implications of that choice and determine who is the best fit for Woman’s,” Griffith says.

The hospital hopes to make a decision during the third quarter.