CHOP and Geisinger children’s hospital announce affiliation

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a smaller children’s hospital operated by Geisinger in Danville, Pa. are formalizing an affiliation they say is designed to improve care for the kids they serve.

CHOP and Geisinger’s Janet Weis Children’s Hospital say their partnership builds on the existing relationship between the hospitals, which already collaborate around cardiology and cardiac surgery, radiology and laboratory services. It will increase the frequency of video consultations between the two facilities with the goal of helping kids in the Danville area get specialized care without traveling to Philadelphia.

“We have as a goal of this relationship to allow more children to receive care closer to home,” said Dr. Steve Docimo, chief operating officer of CHOP’s care network. “There’s a lot value in that for children and families.”

There’s no financial aspect to the agreement, which is purely clinical, although clinicians at both facilities will get paid for any services they provide. For example, Docimo said a CHOP electrophysiologist travels once a month to perform procedures, for which that provider is compensated.

More referrals from Janet Weis to CHOP is a “natural consequence” of the agreement, but it’s not the goal, Docimo said.

There are times when Janet Weis’ physicians encounter rare or complex diseases and want to make sure they’re doing everything they can, said Dr. Frank Maffei, chair of Geisinger’s pediatrics department. Rather than send those patients to Philadelphia, almost three hours away, they can teleconference with CHOP physicians.

“We believe we have the care plan that is the best approach, however, we don’t have ego here,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re absolutely certain. So we will consult with CHOP and they’ll say, ‘You’re on the right path.'”

Keeping kids close to home also helps CHOP preserve its capacity to care for more patients that need a high level of care, Maffei said.

Before this agreement, which has been about 18 months in the making, patient referrals from Janet Weis to CHOP weren’t as focused, Maffei said. Now, referrals for advanced, specialized care will flow mainly to CHOP, he said.

Both Docimo and Maffei said their affiliation is unrelated to the financial challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though it’s mostly adults who fall ill from the coronavirus, children’s hospitals are struggling with lower volumes. They had to postpone surgeries during shutdowns like all other hospitals, and patients have been slow to return. Social distancing is keeping kids from getting hospitalized for common seasonal illnesses like respiratory syncytial or enterovirus.

“I guess that’s a collateral good, but it does impact the volumes at children’s hospitals,” Maffei said.


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