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North Country Initiative names Brian D. Marcolini as first director

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WATERTOWN — Brian D. Marcolini has been named the first director of the North Country Initiative, a consortium involving the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, seven regional hospitals and other providers.

The initiative aims to improve coordination among providers and make the north country health care system more efficient, in particular by reducing avoidable hospital stays.

Until Wednesday, the effort was led by hospital executives, north country medical providers and staff members of health-related agencies. Mr. Marcolini will operate under the auspices of the FDRHPO.

“We went through a three-part interview process,” said Denise K. Young, FDRHPO executive director. “Brian was the absolute unanimous candidate.”

Mr. Marcolini, who most recently worked with health giant Merck & Co. Inc. building relationships with local physicians, said the NCI director post is the perfect position for him. He has a background in both business administration and psychology. At Merck he helped office staff and providers link to patients, looking to improve outcomes. Mr. Marcolini will do just that in his new job.

He said he also knows what it’s like to navigate the complex health care system, as he helped care for his mother before she died of cancer “at a very early age.”

Mrs. Young said Mr. Marcolini’s passion for health care and his skill set, particularly in communications, were among the reasons he was selected.

The North Country Initiative has been more than two years in the making. Mr. Marcolini will provide guidance and implement strategies to achieve the initiative’s goals of creating healthier communities and reducing unnecessary repeat admissions.

The NCI received $3.8 million from a Healthcare Efficiency and Affordability Law for New Yorkers program grant, which helped with the group’s planning. Since that money dried up last year, participating hospitals have looked for funding opportunities to advance their projects.

Many partner hospitals are financially unstable largely because of declining federal reimbursement, rising pension costs and service deficiencies.

The initiative plans to develop a disease database and establish a management service organization and a clinically integrated system. The management organization will provide centralized nonphysician services and functions to participating hospitals. This may entail joint purchasing, reference laboratories and synchronized billing, coding, collection and admissions.

Moving toward a clinically integrated system — with outcome-based measurements and collaboration among physicians — would require more capital. Toward that end, the initiative has applied for $6.42 billion in Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program funds.

Meanwhile, the North Country Initiative could end up as its own corporation, Mrs. Young said. For now, Mr. Marcolini said he will better familiarize himself with the NCI and its partners, and work toward building a better health care delivery system here.

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