Taking it to the next level

University partnership creates largest multispecialty medical group in the Midlands

The concept of the USC School of Medicine working with Palmetto Health isn’t new — in fact, there’s been a strong relationship between the two entities for many years, with Palmetto Health serving as a primary teaching hospital for USC medical students. In April, however, the partnership took a big step forward with the creation of the Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group.

The combined medical group creates the largest multispecialty medical group in the Midlands, and brings with it new opportunities for patients, faculty and practicing physicians.

As the health care delivery system evolves, partnerships like this one are crucial, says Les Hall, executive dean of the USC School of Medicine and CEO of the newly formed group.

“We are moving toward new ways of organizing and delivering health care,” Hall says. “Instead of fee-for-service, in the future employers or insurers will say, ‘Here are X number of dollars to take care of Y number of patients.’ In that model, you have to have comprehensive services that you can control. With a comprehensive network, you can control quality and cost. You can offer a higher-value product for patients.”

By partnering, the School of Medicine and Palmetto Health will be able to enhance their individual strengths and gain access to each other’s areas of expertise.

“It is expensive to recruit and employ physicians, and it was clear that neither USC nor Palmetto Health was in a position to create a comprehensive group on its own,” Hall says. “For the last few years, the School of Medicine has employed about 200 physicians — which might sound like a lot, but there are schools that have 2,000 or 3,000.”

With the combined Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group, the number of physicians rises immediately to more than 500 physicians and advanced care providers, with more coming. The partnership vastly expands the number and range of specialties available to patients, enabling them to move more easily from one provider to the next without having to go outside the system, or even outside the city, for their care.

Already, the Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group has moved to streamline medical records to “help patients navigate the system in ways that are more user-friendly,” Hall says. The goal, he says, is to provide patients with “a critical mass of providers and the critical infrastructure around those providers.”

We have seen new trials launched and an increased interest in the expansion of clinical trials. We believe that we will see more in the future.

Les Hall, executive dean of the School of Medicine

While patients will benefit from comprehensive services and streamlined care, the partnership is also a boon to the teaching and research missions of the university.

“We have already seen a substantially larger number of Palmetto Health physicians that have applied for and received teaching appointments at USC,” Hall says. “We have also seen new trials launched and an increased interest in the expansion of clinical trials. We believe that we will see more in the future.”

Ultimately, the combined Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group aims to serve the community with a higher level of patient-centered care.

“The single biggest impact in the community is that this is allowing us to build a comprehensive group that will be able to care for most health care needs that citizens in the Midlands might have without them having to travel two hours,” Hall says. “If you have a family member who needs a to be hospitalized or who needs a procedure, having that care close to home will lead to better outcomes for everybody. We will see increasingly that Columbia is becoming a medical destination. That is already happening.”

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