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Preserving Strong Ties
How our hospital in Howard County found a novel way to partner with community physicians.

blank Howard County General Hospital
Kirk Swann, 22, a Start on Success graduate, says the opportunity the program gave him to get a job at Hopkins Hospital is "great."

At first glance, the groundbreaking several weeks ago for a new outpatient and physicians’ office building adjacent to Howard County General Hospital might seem like so many other routine efforts to give doctors with hospital privileges a place to lay their stethoscopes.

But the first shovel of dirt was the culmination of an unusual agreement negotiated by Howard County General with assistance from Hopkins that will help preserve the community hospital’s historic ties with its physician staff.

Howard County General brokered an agreement with its physicians in which the hospital contributed the value of the 10-acre site in return for 25 percent of the building’s equity, while about 80 physicians invested their own funds, accounting for 75 percent of the equity.

This kind of partnership, observes Michael Macon, surgeon and president of Columbia Investment Properties, the organization of physician investors, is extremely rare. “What you normally find,” he says, “is that either the hospital or the physicians’ group owns the building.”

The new outpatient building will almost double the current 200,000 square feet of outpatient space adjacent to the hospital and increase patient visits by as much as 30 percent, numbers not unlike those in 1992 when the Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center was built on the East Baltimore campus. More importantly, fitting the hospital’s strategic plan, it will increase the presence of more Hopkins subspecialists at Howard County General.

From the outset, Michael Silverman, president of the hospital’s professional staff and a cardiologist, believed the partnership had no downside. “It’s not only great for my group,” he stresses, “which is now stuffed into six different suites in a 30-year-old building, but we’re also excited about bringing all the specialties together in one place–all the while building a stronger relationship with Hopkins.”

Howard County General CEO Vic Broccolino observes that with hospitalists now handling most internal medicine within the hospital, most of the community physician specialists associated with the hospital moved to locations scattered around the area. “We’ve taken many of our premier specialists and brought them back to our campus,” and that, he stresses, will strengthen their ties with the institution.

Thirteen community specialty groups, among them medical and radiation oncology, urology, orthopedics, cardiology and general surgery, will maintain offices at the new site, scheduled for completion in early fall 2009. The new facility will also be home to a Johns Hopkins retail pharmacy and a phlebotomy lab, as well as Howard County General cancer resource and wellness centers.

—Staff report



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