Evangelical Community Hospital, Geisinger Announce Partnership

KELLY TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Two hospitals in central Pennsylvania announced a partnership Monday that officials say is the first of its kind.

Officials from both Geisinger and Evangelical Community Hospital say this partnership will change the way health care is delivered in central Pennsylvania.

It's not a merger. In fact, Evangelical Community Hospital remains one of 27 independently-owned hospitals in the state. However, Geisinger now has a 30 percent stake in Evangelical, which will allow both facilities to increase services for patients.

When it comes to health care in this part of central Pennsylvania, most people either go to Geisinger or Evangelical Community Hospital. Going to both will soon be easier as both health systems announced a partnership.

"This is an investment," said Evangelical president and CEO Kendra Aucker.  "We'll work together to develop joint ventures to best serve the patients of our region."

Officials from both hospitals announced the partnership which gives Geisinger a 30 percent stake in Evangelical. Evangelical will remain one of the state's 27 independently owned hospitals and will continue to manage its daily operations. The hospitals will invest at least $265 million into the partnership over the next five years.

The partnership centers on bringing Evangelical onto Geisinger's electronic health record system, meaning patient records will be shared across both systems.

"It actually allows that to become seamless, so we'll know everything that's happened at [Evangelical]. We won't have to repeat things. Our docs will be able to talk back and forth much more smoothly," said Geisinger president and CEO Dr. David Feinberg.

One doctor tells Newswatch 16 that when it comes to sharing electronic services, it won't just be easier on patients. It will also be easier on medical professionals.

"This really helps to streamline outpatient, inpatient, operating room, finances. It will also help with communication when patients get taken care of here and then Geisinger or other facilities," said Dr. Todd Stefan, the chief medical officer at Evangelical Community Hospital.

When it comes to health care, Evangelical is becoming a Tier One participant in Geisinger Health Plan insurance. That means people with that coverage will no longer have higher copays.

"If you're insured by Geisinger Health Plan, now you can go to either place and it wouldn't cost you as a member any difference from a copay standpoint," Dr. Feinberg said.

Evangelical will continue to accept patients who do not have Geisinger's health insurance.

The partnership is effective immediately. Officials say the transition to the new electronic health record system at Evangelical Community Hospital will take about two years to finish.