TRI-CITIES, Tenn./Va. (WJHL)- A new report from Ballad Health outlines how healthcare has been shaped around the region since the system’s formation three years ago.

Ballad released its 52-page inaugural ‘Report to Our Communities’ on Wednesday. The report covers the healthcare system’s activity from February 2018 to December 2020.

The full report can be read below:

The merger of Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance to form Ballad Health in 2018 has drawn both praise and scrutiny.

On Wednesday, Ballad CEO and President Alan Levine said the merger has been key to preserving rural healthcare in the area.

“If you think about what’s happening all over rural and non-urban America right now, with hospitals closing, access being impaired because of the external environment, the fact that we’re not even talking about that here, to me is a real positive,” Levine said.

Levine believes the benefits of the merger have been on display over the last year as the system coordinated its response to the pandemic.

“I don’t think that the two legacy health systems could have been as effective in the response to COVID. Our ability to coordinate, to move people around, was a key part of our response,” he said.

Mirroring national trends of a shift to value-based healthcare, the report says Ballad’s strategy has been to increase access to lower-cost urgent care by reducing pricing for the services.

The approach serves as an alternative to more expensive emergency room care. This has reduced around 130,000 emergency room visits annually, according to the report.

“That’s $200 million a year lower the cost of healthcare for the employers and the taxpayers in our region,” Levine said.

The report also says Ballad has been able to recruit 136 new doctors and 151 advanced practice providers since the merger.

Several recent Ballad initiatives are outlined in the report, including renovating a new hospital in Lee County, Virginia and converting two existing hospitals in Greene County.

Last week Ballad also announced the creation of the Niswonger Children’s Network to bring new services for women and children across the region.

Ballad remains under the oversight of Tennessee and Virginia’s Departments of Health.