BRATTLEBORO -- With big changes in health care looming, Windham County's two hospitals have agreed to work together to find ways to save money and become more efficient.
Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and Grace Cottage Hospital will work with Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center to find ways for both Windham County hospitals to better serve their patients.
"With all of the changes in health care reform we felt like this was an interesting opportunity to start this dialogue," said BMH President Steve Gordon. "Traditionally we have collaborated in the past and we want to see if there are better ways we can both serve Windham County."
Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Helms & Company, a Concord, N.H. healthcare management firm, will conduct interviews and assessments over the next few months at both hospitals.
Doctors, patients, administrators and staff will all be asked to take part in the study, which Gordon said he hopes will be available some time in the fall.
Grace Cottage, with 19 beds, specializes in acute and rehabilitative care, while the 61-bed Brattleboro Memorial focuses on primary and specialty services.
Both hospitals routinely send patients who need serious surgery to Dartmouth Hitchcock.
Gordon stressed that both BMH and Grace Cottage are in sound financial shape and the study is being done to address the shifting landscape brought on by state and federal changes in the healthcare system.
"This is being driven by the boards," Gordon said. "It is a good time to do a study like this when you are not facing financial stress."
Meg Cleary, who is interim CEO at Grace Cottage, said the Townshend hospital wanted to look at all of its systems before hiring a full time leader.
Cleary said the discussions to do a top-to-bottom assessment started as the board began considering how it would hire the next CEO, and Grace Cottage approached BMH about looking at both institutions at once.
Cleary is also a principal with Helms & Company.
"The board understands they have strategic work to do in thinking about the changes in health care reform," said Cleary. "The board very quickly determined that they have good partners in BMH and Dartmouth Hitchcock and we are really looking forward to determining how we can do a better job at sharing services."
Along with questioning staff the public will be involved and the hospitals hope to hold three focus groups in the coming months to gather input.
"Health care is changing so much it requires us to bust out of our comfort zone," Cleary said. "It's not only about saving money it's also about reaching better outcomes."