In my travels around Forest Grove, Hillsboro and the rest of Washington County, I’m asked two main questions about Tuality Healthcare’s affiliation discussions with Providence Health & Services:

n Why are you selling out to Providence?

n What’s in it for Providence?

I’m always eager to reply to the first question. Tuality Healthcare has been in business in Washington County for 96 years. It is my intention, and the intention of Tuality’s board of directors, that Tuality Healthcare will remain an independent, non-profit facility for years to come.

Our discussions with Providence involve an “affiliation,” not a merger or acquisition. The intent of the affiliation is to provide the best possible health care for residents of Washington County, while reducing costs through collaboration, such as in combining our supply, drug and equipment purchasing to achieve costs savings.

Both organizations will remain independent health systems. Health care isn’t alone in seeking affiliations. Many other businesses — airlines, manufacturing, technology — have also gone the affiliation route. It makes sense, given the economies of scale in our current down economy.

The answer to the second question is, simply, that it makes sense for Providence, for Tuality and the community. We know that Washington County will be the economic engine that drives the metro area and the state of Oregon for many years to come.

Our unemployment rate is much lower than other metro-area counties and the state. Our population shows slow steady growth. Our per capita income outpaces the rest of the state. Our county is recognized for embracing diversity. Companies such as Intel, Genentech and SolarWorld have established a presence here. We think the best way to serve the needs of this dynamic community is to pursue an affiliation between our two organizations.

So, what will an affiliation look like? We are studying that, and asking lots of questions. Here are a few examples:

n Primary care providers: Do we have enough to serve our current populations? Will we need more in the future?

n Telemedicine: Can we use technology to better support patients in both health systems?

n Upgrading equipment: Medical technology changes rapidly. To make our services more affordable, does it make sense to share our clinical equipment?

n Clinical care expansion: Do we have the right clinics in the right locations in Washington County?

The bottom line is that this affiliation will provide better preventive and ongoing health care, and allow both organizations to continue to be leaders in the health care transformation efforts being pursued by the state of Oregon and the federal government.

At Tuality, our long-standing slogan is: Building a healthier community. We think that by adding one word, you get a good idea of the goal of this proposed affiliation. That word is “together” — as in: Together, building a healthier community. That’s what is in the affiliation for Providence, Tuality — and you.

Dick Stenson is the president and CEO of Tuality Healthcare.

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