Providence Health and Services Western Montana, the health care provider that operates Missoula's St. Patrick Hospital, has announced a new partnership with Billings-based St. Vincent Healthcare.

The joint venture will be a coordinated care network called the Northern Rockies Healthcare Alliance.

According to an announcement Monday from both organizations, the alliance's vision is to improve the quality and accessibility of health care for Montana residents through a statewide network of care providers, reduced costs, fewer unnecessary hospital visits, coordinated care models that offer improved quality, and a simpler and a more connected care experience tailored to the needs of individual patients.

The move comes just a few months after rival hospital Billings Clinic partnered with RegionalCare Hospital Partners to purchase Community Medical Center in Missoula.

Providence operates 40 clinics, two hospitals and has more than 2,000 employees in Montana.

St. Vincent Healthcare operates 11 clinics in the Billings area and northern Wyoming and is a subsidiary of the faith-based, nonprofit health system Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System of Denver.

“Providence is more committed than ever to our goal of creating a better model for how health care is delivered in Montana,” said Jeff Fee, regional chief executive of Providence Health and Services Western Montana. “The formation of the NRHA with our partners at SCL Health brings us one step further on our journey to providing compassionate, comprehensive, quality care that is accessible and affordable to all.”

The new alliance will be an Accountable Care Organization, designed to allow a network of providers to deliver integrated care and to meet specific cost and quality targets for designated populations.

The Northern Rockies Healthcare Alliance is structured to incorporate other organizations, allowing it to expand services and functions across the state and other regions served by the participating providers.

The NRHA and its participating providers will work with large self-insured employers, associations and other entities that pay for health care to create alternative payment models that ultimately deliver better quality and more efficient care at a lower cost to patients.

“The value proposition offered by the NRHA is the ability to drive down an employer’s health care spend,” said Ron Oldfield, vice president of finance and the CFO of St. Vincent Healthcare. “This is accomplished by proactively managing their employee’s health to avoid costly procedures and admissions to the hospital.”

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