- Associated Press - Thursday, June 26, 2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Five regional health care systems in Missouri have formed a new consortium aimed at improving business practices and patient care.

The Health Network of Missouri is comprised of University of Missouri Health Care in Columbia; Bothwell Regional Health Center in Sedalia; Capital Region Medical Center in Jefferson City; Hannibal Regional Healthcare System; and Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach.

Members of the new network will be able to collaborate on things such as physician recruitment, clinical services and information technology, The Columbia Daily Tribune (http://bit.ly/1rDeFxN ) reported. They also will be able to share patients and patient information.

Each of the health systems provided $40,000 for the new limited liability company to hire an executive director and pay for consultants. The network’s board, consisting of administrators from each health system, already has hired a Tennessee-based health care consultant to help with the executive director search.

“Our biggest priority right now is to improve the flow of patients between us,” said Glen Nelson, vice chairman of the Bothwell Regional Health Center Board of Trustees in Sedalia. Though each health system is independent, they have worked collaboratively to help patients for years, Nelson said.

MU Health Care spokeswoman Mary Jenkins said many of the systems already share patients and information about them, but no decision has been made on whether the coalition will share data about all of their patients.

The money provided by each organization is a startup cost, with other contributions to come as needed, she said.

Administrators from the five systems have been collaborating since 2011 on what they might be able to do together to address the changing health care climate. Hal Williamson, executive vice chancellor for the MU health systems, said the group had to form a legal company in order to make significant changes.

He said the group is willing to talk to any other health system around Missouri that is interested in being a member of the organization.

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Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com