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Ballad Health officially launches, marking the start of a new story in healthcare for Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia

Friday, February 2, 2018

Ballad Health officially launches, marking the start of a new story in healthcare for Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia

KINGSPORT, Tenn. – More than 250 team members, physicians, community leaders and elected officials gathered at MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center Friday morning, Feb. 2, to celebrate the culmination of a region-wide effort to transform local healthcare and set the stage for improving community health.

The official launch of Ballad Health represents nearly three years of work on the part of health system leaders, state officials and community advocates to create a region-wide health improvement organization through the merger of Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance.

“The launch of this new health system is the result of a great deal of community effort and support,” said Alan Levine, executive chairman, president and chief executive officer of Ballad Health. “Our new organization is designed specifically to meet the needs of people in our region, so we’re especially honored today to formally introduce ourselves to you as Ballad Health.”

The name of the health system was chosen following a survey of local residents, asking what they value most in a healthcare interaction. The most common response in the survey was the desire for a healthcare provider who truly listens. That feedback, coupled with a recognition of the region’s rich cultural history in stories and songs, led to the name Ballad Health.

“We chose the name Ballad Health because we want to be reminded every day that good health is about more than just healthcare. It’s part of a person’s life story,” said Levine. “When a patient chooses to tell their story to us, they’re giving us a sacred trust, and it is absolutely essential that we listen.”

The health system’s logo is a colorful, stylized letter B, with concentric circles reminiscent of sound waves. The tagline accompanying the logo reads, “It’s your story. We’re listening.”

“We know that we’re not always perfect, but we are completely committed to the promise that’s built into our brand,” said Levine. “We intend to be accountable to our patients – to listen to them and understand their needs. This is part of what will be required in order to make a meaningful impact on our region’s health.”

As part of the Ballad Health merger agreement, the health system has made enforceable commitments with the state of Tennessee and the commonwealth of Virginia that include the investment of $308 million over 10 years to improve population health, expand access to care, and support health research and medical education. These commitments include:

  • $85 million for behavioral health to create new capacity for residential addiction recovery services and develop community-based mental health resources, like mobile health crisis management teams and intensive outpatient treatment options.
  • $85 million in academics and research to educate and train healthcare providers that are in short supply in the region, and build the research capacity of universities and colleges serving the region to spur economic development.
  • $75 million to address key population health needs, with a focus on some of the most serious threats to the region’s health, like diabetes and infant mortality.
  • $27 million directed toward children’s services to create pediatric emergency rooms in Kingsport and Bristol with further expansion of pediatric telemedicine, mobile health and specialty clinics in rural areas.
  • $28 million directed toward rural health services, including improved access to same-day primary care services, support for maternal and prenatal health, and more.
  • $8 million to enable health information exchange, allowing healthcare providers both inside and outside of Ballad Health to more easily share important health information that improves patient care.

Plans are now underway to create:

  • A pediatric trauma center to serve Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia
  • Pediatric emergency departments in Kingsport and Bristol to compliment the pediatric emergency department already associated with Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City
  • A comprehensive residential addiction treatment facility

Ballad Health has also established a $10 million innovation fund to invest in emerging technologies in conjunction with regional higher education institutions.

Other key commitments include:

  • Keeping all Ballad Health hospitals open as health care institutions for at least five years, and maintaining essential health care services in all counties where the health system currently operates. At a time when nearly 80 rural hospitals in America have closed, with Tennessee leading the states in the number closed, this is a notable commitment.
  • Adopting a comprehensive and enforceable set of conditions that will ensure the rate of growth in healthcare prices in the region will be lower than the national average.
  • Negotiating in good faith with all insurance providers and working together with independent physician groups to develop a regional clinical services network.
  • Publicly measuring and sharing quality information, with a goal of becoming one of the top performing health systems in the nation.

The process of integrating the two health systems is underway and will continue for a number of months while various functions are merged. Because Wellmont and Mountain States were competitors, some elements of integration planning could not begin until the closing of the transaction. Such planning efforts are now under way. Signage throughout the system will change gradually over the next six months.

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