Hospital systems announce shared services agreement

Effective November 2021, Cook County Health and UI Health — the leading public health care providers in Cook County and Illinois — will collaborate on specialty pediatric services under the Partnership for Pediatric Care, a new clinical affiliation for shared services.

Cook County Health, one of the nation’s largest public health systems committed to serving all county residents regardless of ability to pay, and UI Health, the academic health enterprise of the University of Illinois Chicago which includes the only state-funded health system in Chicago, serve more than 100,000 Illinois children. These pediatric patients include a substantial proportion of children covered by Illinois Medicaid who receive care at nearly 40 CCH and UI Health locations across the state, primarily in Cook County and Chicago.

Under the partnership, 165 pediatric providers will be credentialed to provide care at both health systems’ locations.

At a celebration of the partnership on Oct. 28 at the Cook County Health Professional Building, leaders from both institutions discussed the potential of the new partnership to reduce health care costs, advance innovations in population health, and, most importantly, improve health and developmental outcomes for children in Cook County and Chicago.

“Caring for the health and well-being of children is central to the mission of Cook County Health,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “The partnership between CCH and UI Health will expand access to leading pediatric specialists for children across the county, ensuring they can reach their full health potential.”

“Together, our two institutions provide care to many of the most vulnerable children in Illinois, but despite our efforts there is much more work to be done. This partnership provides the framework for our world-class doctors to expand their work, collaborate and share their expertise. And, ultimately, to give the children of Illinois their best chance at a healthy life,” said University of Illinois Chicago Chancellor Michael Amiridis.

In addition to developing a new model of care for patients benefiting from public health care providers and joint quality improvement, educational, and research programs, the Partnership for Pediatric Care will enable efficient sharing of expertise, best practices, and resources in key pediatric specialty and sub-specialty areas, leveraging each institution’s unique strengths.

For patients, integration of pediatric services under the Partnership for Pediatric Care will mean greater access to specialty and sub-specialty care providers and appointments at whichever institution they receive or seek care.

“Today’s announcement is about our two organizations coming together to improve the care and services we provide to our youngest patients,” said Israel Rocha, CEO of Cook County Health. “Together, we will be able to offer children the specialty care they need within their medical home where they have a care team they know and trust. This will ensure continuity of care and result in optimal health outcomes for the children we serve.”

“As public institutions, we have a shared mission to provide the highest quality care to patients and communities across the state. Partnerships, such as this one with Cook County Health, are natural strategies to leverage the community outreach and expertise that we each offer to benefit those in our care. This particular partnership strengthens our networks of resources to address the complex needs of our youngest patients,” said Dr. Robert Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs at UIC. “It is through collaborative endeavors like the Partnership for Pediatric Care that our health systems can more comprehensively reduce barriers to optimal health in our communities near and far.”

“By joining forces under the Partnership for Pediatric Care, UI Health and Cook County Health can help each other amplify the reach and impact of the high-quality pediatric programs already established in our clinical systems. This will strengthen existing and build new programs that can address the unique needs of our pediatric population, particularly those who may experience health disparities and face barriers related to finances and social determinants of health,” said Michael Zenn, CEO of the University of Illinois Hospital and Clinics.

The Partnership for Pediatric Care will provide nearly 13,000 new visits for patients across the services currently offered. Initially identified to collaborate under the partnership are 13 pediatric specialty areas, serving patients ages 0-18.

Most new appointments are slated for hematology and oncology, with approximately 2,400 visits added via shared services. Child life, gastroenterology and rheumatology will add approximately 1,650 visits each. Approximately 1,100 visits will be available in adolescent medicine, endocrinology, genetics, nephrology and pulmonary.

Additional specialties included in the initial rollout are critical care, developmental and behavioral pediatrics, infectious diseases, and sleep. In these areas, shared services will primarily consist of collaborative inpatient rounding.

Officials estimate that the Partnership for Pediatric Care could save, at minimum, around $1.1 million, based on fair market value estimates of the costs averted alone. Additional cost savings are expected through reduced utilization of hospital emergency departments and an overall shift from inpatient to outpatient care that would result from more well-controlled chronic health conditions.

“The goal of the Partnership for Pediatric Care is to meet our patients where they are. By increasing the reach of our pediatric specialists at our hospital campuses and our community health centers we are reducing barriers to access so that our pediatric patients and their families can get the care they deserve,” said Cook County Health’s Dr. Mope Akintorin, chair of pediatrics.

“Together, our two departments will offer full panel pediatric subspecialty services to children across Cook County. We anticipate expanding access to pediatric subspecialty care near where our patients live. We believe we can offer convenient access to subspecialty care and collaborate to improve health care quality. Both our departments have long histories of innovating new approaches to serve children’s health in Cook County and Chicago,” said UI Health’s Dr. Benjamin Van Voorhees, head of pediatrics.

Van Voorhees and Akintorin will oversee the Partnership for Pediatric Care. They say that Cook County Health and UI Health patients and families should only notice improvements in access and care delivery, as more qualified doctors, at more preferred locations, will come together to provide the care they need.

Alexandra Normington, Associate Chief Communications & Marketing Officer