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20 years of health care — Mississippi Health Partners has 800 physicians, 14 hospitals in 10-county network

MHP -marisa_rgbMississippi Health Partners, the Jackson-based managed care network, is entering its 21st year of operation in 2014, providing employers and payors with quality health care services while controlling the costs associated with those services.

The company has grown to encompass approximately 800 physicians and 14 hospitals, including the two that were there in the beginning: Baptist Medical Center and St. Dominic Hospital. Mississippi Health Partners also has expanded geographically and now includes hospitals and physicians in the central part of the state. Today, it is has 15 employees.

Marisa Davidson is president and CEO of the company, which is owned by the physicians and hospitals in its managed care preferred provider network. She joined as an MBA program intern when Mississippi Health Partners was getting off the ground.

“We started off as a partnership with Mississippi Baptist Medical Center, St. Dominic and the former Rankin Medical Center,” she said. “Our Jackson area physicians and the hospitals came together because they realized they needed a way to work with insurance companies and plans, and they wanted to demonstrate a qualified network. They wanted to bring some value in a single contracting entity that would be administratively easy for them to work with.”

The network concept was new 20 years ago but has become more familiar over the years. “It’s very routine nowadays that any insurance plan is directed to network of physicians and hospitals that they must use,” she said.

The mission of MHP is “to develop an integrated delivery network of physicians and hospitals that enhances the health status of our communities.” Said Davidson, “Our initiatives are all about cost effective health care services that are locally managed.”

Davidson said being local is an important asset valued in Mississippi. “We are a provider sponsored initiative very much with the local flavor of this community,” she said. “The local aspect is a key thing because we live and work here. The physicians are part of the community here. We do work directly with local plans as well as national plans.”

She said Baptist and St. Dominic continue to own the company along with the physicians on staff at those hospitals. “Our network has grown to a 10-county service area focused in Central Mississippi. Today we serve over 100,000 covered lives.”

She said that physician participation in the network is key to its success.

Dr. H. Clark Ethridge Jr. is chairman of the board of Mississippi Health Partners. “We are one of the few highly successful (physician-hospital organizations) in the country,” he said. “Most have either closed over the years or have been ineffective. The thing that makes ours most effective all these years has been the physicians’ participation. The doctors on board actually participate and come to meetings and stay involved. We have been very successful in having a good doctor coalition and a working relationship with both hospitals.”

Ethridge said that even though Baptist and St. Dominic are competitors, they have worked together through Mississippi Health Partners rather than seeking contracts with insurance companies separately that might give them an advantage.

And unlike states such as Alabama where one insurance company dominates the market and can dictate rates, he said. “We have been able to keep things in balance.”

Davidson said more growth is in the future for Mississippi Health Partners but may not necessarily be like the kind of growth experienced in the last 20 years. “You’ll see growth in some creative ways like our health information exchange,” she said.

Mississippi Health Partners is rolling out its MHP Connect that allows patients to share their personal health records electronically with physicians and other health care providers. “Some patients have multiple health care providers and it’s difficult to maintain all the information at their fingertips,” she said. “This is a way patients can exchange that information with health care providers and the health care providers can efficiently receive information about patients, whether it’s lab reports, a discharge summary or their prescription history.”

The goal is to make electronic access to health records simple, she said, and that will be a first step toward more innovation in service.

“The trend is mostly the technology route,” she said. “That’s going to be a big focus for us because it enables other initiatives in the future that promote quality and give patients more tools to manage their own health.”

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