WellStar aims to retool Newt Gingrich's healthcare think tank

Originally based in Washington, D.C., CHT offices will be relocated to Georgia

With the intention of forming a collaborative network of 20 non-competing, not-for-profit health systems in the Southeast, WellStar Health System has acquired the trade name, trademark and other assets of the bankrupt Center for Health Transformation (CHT), a for-profit think-tank founded by Newt Gingrich.

WellStar announced the deal on Nov. 14.

Originally based in Washington, D.C., CHT offices will be relocated to WellStar’s home state of Georgia and it will operate as a nonprofit entity. According to WellStar president and CEO Reynold Jennings, the interest in acquiring CHT and starting a collaborative project was born out of his observation that structured direct information sharing and collaboration among healthcare executives is virtually non-existent today.

“I had been invited to some forums over the last six month put on by a couple of the consulting entities out there and each of them, in their own way, were trying to get healthcare leaders together to talk about how we are going to tackle the hundreds of solutions embedded within the Affordable Care Act,” said Jennings. “While I was sitting in these meetings, I realized that other than these ad hoc invitations, there was actually no entity available for CEOs to get together on a regular basis and have a focused agenda.”

The re-vamped CHT will be headed by Robin T Wilson, MD, WellStar’s chief health innovation officer and senior VP for medical management. Membership in CHT will be by invitation only and member health systems must be not-for-profit, multi-facility health systems of similar size and scope. Also key to its goals is a commitment by member systems to active participation by its president/CEO and other senior executives.

The center will also have as its focus the delivery of healthcare by providers in the Southeast from the states of Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The intent is to be able to share best practices and be able to provide a multivariate approach to solving specific operational and clinical challenges that can then be used by all member hospitals.

“The reason we are focusing on the Southeast is we are looking for similarly configured systems that are in non-competing markets, but we want everyone to sort of have the same playing field,” said Willson. “So we wouldn’t want a system with five hospitals and 1,200 beds in the Southeast trying to share best practices with a system that is in a different geographic area with different payers, different patients and different physician mindsets. It is really like-minded systems and it is easier to have them geographically concentrated here.”

The CHT has already sent out letters to eight health systems asking them to become the founding members. It will look to have commitments from the founding members within one week, with an eye toward being up and running by the beginning of the new year. The organization will be funded by dues from member health systems.