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      Blessing, Barnes collaboration announced

      Blessing Health Systems announced Thursday a partnership with the BJC Collaborative.

      The Quincy-based hospital joins a group of four Midwest health systems in a move that CEOs say will reduce costs and allow the health systems to better share information.

      BJC HealthCare in St. Louis founded the collaborative in October. It includes Memorial Health System in Springfield, Ill., CoxHealth in Springfield, Mo., and Saint Luke's Health System in Kansas City, Mo.

      Blessing Corporate Services formed in 1983 and currently includes Blessing Hospital, Illini Community Hospital in Pittsfield, Ill., Blessing Physician Services, Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing, The Blessing Foundation and Denman Service, Inc.

      The collaboration now means that 30 hospitals will share some resources. BJC represents the largest health system in the group with 13 hospitals.

      Blessing Health System president and CEO Brad Billings stressed that the collaboration isn't a merger and that Blessing well retain its autonomy.

      The move comes as health systems across the country are readying themselves for compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which hopes to change how medical care is priced by basing costs on the quality of care rather than the volume of patients.

      Under the federal law, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements will decrease for hospitals that fail to meet certain quality standards.

      Barnes and Blessing officials at Thursday's press conference said that the goal is to increase information sharing, share resources and create a better relationship with hospitals in Springfield, Ill. and St. Louis that already receive a significant amount of referrals from the Quincy hospital.

      Modern Health Care magazine reported in October that such collaborations, not to be confused with a full-fledged merger, are becoming commonplace even for health systems that in good financial standing.

      â??But even systems in a position of financial strength are finding a need to align with other providers to take advantage of the increased buying power that comes from having more beds and more patients,â?? the article says.