As hospital leaders continue to respond to evolving community needs, many are realizing that they can't go it alone. Partnerships of all shapes and sizes, covering nearly all service lines, are cropping up these days.

For example, Centura Health, a 15-hospital system based in Englewood, Colo., is teaming up with a freestanding emergency department developer from Texas, looking to speed up the rollout of such facilities.

The two will share in the capital costs of building out each location, and the Houston area-based Larkin Group will staff them with clinicians who meet the health system's quality standards. Centura, meanwhile, will continue operating its three already-built freestanding EDs in Westminster and Aurora.

Pam Nicholson, senior vice president of strategy for Centura, says that, along with shortening the time to market, they'll also add the know-how of a company that's already built and owned six of its own EDs in Texas. Colorado has a high utilization rate of emergency services and more than 20 percent of its population is enrolled in Medicaid, which could further fuel the demand fire.

"We wanted to make sure that we could get into the market and make our impact as fast as possible, and we needed a partnership to do so," she says. "As a health system, we don't have all of the answers or the expertise. They have the experience in starting these up quickly, and the management of it is different than an ED that's right there in the hospital."

On the flipside, Larkin gains the expertise of a large health system that already knows the market and can seamlessly connect patients to other services not offered in the ED via a connected electronic health record system, says CEO Kelly Larkin, M.D.

The two companies are now working together to determine the locations for several new EDs across Colorado, with an announcement expected in the next six months. New locations will fit into Centura's "neighborhood health strategy," and be tied to where there are gaps in health and wellness services around the health system's market.

Larkin believes that such community-based, freestanding EDs are a critical piece of any hospital's strategy to improve the health of its population.

"Patients need these types of access points, and patients want this kind of quality care where they don't have to go too far, wait to be seen, and where we could help them on the cost of care delivery," she says. "I think that it's more than a value add; it's almost imperative that we do this."