Good Health Along the Hudson

It was a new kind of strategic alliance for both institutions when it was finalized in 2016. The vision was to establish one level of quality health care maintained by one talented team accessible across the region. Now, after five years, Albany Med and Columbia Memorial Health (CMH) are looking back at a partnership that has strengthened care in the Hudson Valley and looking forward to continuing the growth of the Albany Med Health System that the alliance advanced.

The first hospital System affiliates, Albany Med and CMH have extended numerous specialized services closer to residents of Columbia, Greene, southern Rensselaer, and northern Dutchess and Ulster counties. The partnership has also led to greater operational efficiencies for both providers, allowing reinvestment in people and programs that fortify each hospital’s position in their communities.

“We are the people our neighbors know, delivering care they can trust,” said CMH President and CEO Jay P. Cahalan. “Working together with Albany Med, Columbia Memorial has redoubled its commitment to the community with expanded access to comprehensive care. That means our patients do not have to travel far from home to receive the care they need. As the community’s hospital, Columbia Memorial has additional resources to meet the needs of our patients through the Albany Med Health System.”

Albany Med Health System President and CEO Dennis P. McKenna, MD, ’92, said, “The guiding principle of our System has been to elevate and maintain one level of quality care from Ancramdale to Albany and across the entire Capital Region. Because we live in the communities we serve, we can respond effectively and efficiently to what our residents want, and we have.”


Health care consumers are increasingly seeking easy access to highly specialized services. General and breast surgeon Rakel Astorga, MD, is among several clinicians seeing patients in Albany and Columbia counties.

“We are in our patients’ towns, providing services at convenient locations with Columbia Memorial,” Dr. Astorga said. This is an example of the System’s integrated delivery model. As it is with many large metropolitan health centers, integrated services—or those that are delivered collaboratively—bring teams together for a consistent experience wherever patients are seen.

Procedures in these specialties are performed by Albany Med and Columbia Memorial providers at CMH’s main Hudson campus, and patients may be seen for evaluation at multiple community locations. Primary and rapid care providers may also refer patients to a higher level of care more seamlessly.

CMH cardiologist H. Louis Clinton, MD, said, “Our combined strengths establish one higher level of care from Albany to Red Hook—and every place in between.” Providers from both Albany Med and CMH may also refer patients within the System.


The Albany Med Health System is the region’s largest and only locally governed health care provider. It is also the region’s largest private employer with a workforce totaling more than 16,000. Today, the System includes Albany Medical Center Hospital, Albany Medical College, Columbia Memorial Health, Glens Falls Hospital, and Saratoga Hospital. The System has 1,520 licensed hospital beds, nearly 800 physicians and 125 outpatient locations serving the three million people in the region and is supported by a longstanding affiliation with the Albany Visiting Nurses, providing services to patients of all System hospitals. The System’s mission is to improve health by attaining the highest standard of quality in care delivery, education, and research initiatives. Albany Medical College educates the next generation of health care professionals; approximately 40 percent of regional health care providers are Albany Medical College graduates.

“With leadership in the Capital Region, all decisions are made here, not elsewhere,” said Steven M. Frisch, MD, senior executive vice president for the Integrated Delivery System. “Our patients have guided our growth in the CMH market and in the markets of our member institutions, as well. The Albany Med Health System makes access to and coordination of care easier. Through integration and collaboration, we are committed to bringing patients our shared skills and compassion. When we come together, we standardize care and hold
the line on costs. We ensure that the level of care you have come to expect endures.”

In addition to clinical services, the relationship between Albany Med and CMH has led to improved operational efficiencies, including a regional solution for lab referrals across the System, system-wide integration of administrative services such as legal, risk management, corporate compliance, and various financial services and group purchasing contracts, resulting in the added benefit of cost savings.


Patients can expect more collaboration in additional service lines across the System. Work will soon begin on a System-wide electronic medical record (EMR) and enterprise planning resource process (ERP). With one EMR, providers at any System location may securely access patient information for quicker connections to coordinated care. A team is also planning for a central patient engagement center that will offer System patients one number to call for scheduling provider or hospital services, checking eligibility and benefits, financial information, referral and authorization management. It will open first at Albany Med and expand to member hospitals in the coming years. A uniform financial aid policy will be introduced for all System hospitals. The Marketing and Communications teams at all four System hospitals are collaborating to introduce a united visual identity through common logos, graphics, and advertising.