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January 10, 2013

Hospital chiefs outline health care strategies

DANVERS — The heads of the region’s major hospital systems outlined yesterday what they are doing to lower costs, increase value, improve quality and keep people healthy with the coming of the Affordable Care Act next year.

Their remarks came during a North Shore Chamber of Commerce executive breakfast in the main ballroom of the Danversport Yacht Club.

The event featured Lahey Health System President and CEO Dr. Howard Grant, who oversees the combined former Lahey Clinic and Northeast Health System organizations, including Beverly Hospital, and North Shore Medical Center President and CEO Robert Norton, which operates Salem Hospital and other medical facilities on the North Shore.

“The challenges are profound,” Grant said, “but I’m really optimistic about what lies ahead, the progress Bob has demonstrated in his organization, and we are tracking many of the same initiatives right now. We are all on the same wavelength.”

North Shore Chamber of Commerce Chairman Robert Lutts, president and chief investment officer of Cabot Money Management of Salem, said the nearly 2,500-page Affordable Care Act comes with new tax provisions that are already in effect, and more are on the way. Just as important, Lutts said, the law changes the way health care will be delivered, and the hospital CEOs have an insider’s view of how they plan to control costs and improve the quality of care, something that has an impact on businesses.

With some new initiatives triggered by the law, Norton said the quality of care appears to be up at North Shore Medical Center, which is a subsidiary of the nonprofit Partners HealthCare and includes Salem Hospital, Union Hospital in Lynn and Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care in Danvers, among others.

Efforts at cutting costs also appear to be paying off, Norton said. The increases that Partners is seeing from third-party payers “are the lowest they have been in 10 or 15 years.” The double-digit increases are down to 3 to 4 percent.

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