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Franciscan Alliance takes control of VNS home health agency

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Franciscan St. Francis Health is bringing the area's largest local home health care provider under its umbrella.

Visiting Nurse Service Inc., based in Indianapolis, will have its entire board of directors appointed by Franciscan St. Francis, the organizations announced Thursday. And over time, VNS will take responsibility for all of Franciscan St. Francis' home health and hospice care.

The partnership, expected to take effect June 1, is the latest example of Indiana hospitals embracing primary health care providers as the 2010 health care reform law pushes them toward managing all stages of health for specific groups of patients.

VNS' 200 employees will remain in place. The only financial component of the deal is that Franciscan St. Francis will pay the roughly $400,000 annual expense of running VNS' Abbie Hunt Bryce Home for terminally ill homeless patients.

VNS, founded in 1913, sends nurses, therapists, dieticians and medical social workers to patients’ homes in 30 different counties, and also does remote monitoring of patients.

In addition to Indianapolis, VNS has offices in Avon, Lebanon, Noblesville, Greenwood, Martinsville and Kokomo. It has partnerships to provide in-home and hospice care for several hospitals, including Wishard Health Services and Howard Regional Health System.
 
“There is a great advantage to this partnership,” VNS CEO John Pipas said in a statement. “Both organizations will be enhanced by creating a stronger continuum of care to current and future patients.”

Home health and hospice care are getting more attention from hospitals recently as an aging population augurs rapid growth.

Franciscan Alliance, a 13-hospital system based in Mishawaka, has in the past two years acquired physician practices in Carmel, Hammond and Indianapolis. Franciscan Alliance hopes that by having physicians integrated into the hospital system, patients can be passed from one provider to another with better communication and fewer duplicative tests, hopefully improving care and reducing costs at the same time.

Other hospitals also have been acquiring physician practices and bringing on more physicians as employees. St. Vincent Health purchased The Care Group in 2010, Community Health Network made several acquisitions, including Pulmonary Medical Associates, in 2009, and Indiana University Health made controlling investment in Heart Partners of Indiana in 2008.
 

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