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Analysis

Atrium Health, Wake Forest in Talks to Form Academic Health System Together

By John Commins  
   April 10, 2019

The deal would combine, coordinate and integrate clinical services taught in the medical schools and administered in the hospitals, with an emphasis on identifying and managing chronic health issues in the communities they serve

North Carolina's Atrium Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health, and Wake Forest University have announced plans to form a "combined" academic health system designed for population health, which will feature a new medical school in Charlotte.

The three organizations this week signed a memorandum of understanding that puts them in exclusive negotiations with the aim of achieving a final agreement later this year.

"Phenomenal things can happen when like-minded partners, committed to the same transformative vision, come together in new ways to better serve our patients and communities," Eugene A. Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health, said Wednesday in a media release.

"For example, Wake Forest School of Medicine and Wake Forest Baptist Health are national leaders in studying how to help people age better, and with a much higher quality of life," he said. "Last year at Atrium Health, we cared for more than 350,000 patients over the age of 65, and by 2035, one in five U.S. residents will be over that age."

"Just imagine the powerful possibilities to advance modern medicine by linking breakthrough science directly with our patients in a way that significantly enhances their cognitive and physical functioning—and allows them to live independently for longer," Woods said.  

Wednesday's announcement comes a little more than a year after talks of a potential merger between Atrium Health and UNC Health Care fell apart.   

Under the memorandum signed this week, the deal would combine, coordinate, and integrate clinical services taught in the medical schools and administered in the hospitals for specialties such as oncology, pediatrics, cardiac, and gerontology services, with an emphasis on identifying and managing chronic health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and age-related illnesses in the communities they serve.

The combined academic health system would also build a new medical school in Charlotte for Wake Forest School of Medicine and make capital improvements to existing medical school in Winston-Salem.

"We are eager to bring this shared vision for our future to life with Atrium Health," said Julie Ann Freischlag, MD, CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Health and dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine.

"It's incredible to think about the impact we can make, together, advancing patient-centered research, a next-generation curriculum and active population health analytics across our combined footprint," Freischlag said. "We can create amazing outcomes that embrace true change – most importantly enhancing, extending and saving the lives of countless people."  nationally leading role in research," Hatch said.

Atrium Health, an integrated nonprofit health system headquartered in Charlotte, includes 42 hospitals and more than 900 care locations with 14 million patient visits annually.

Wake Forest Baptist Health's academic medical center and regional healthcare system sees 2.2 million patient visits each year across seven hospitals and more than 400 care locations.

“Phenomenal things can happen when like-minded partners, committed to the same transformative vision, come together in new ways to better serve our patients and communities. ,”

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The 'combined organization' would build a new medical school in Charlotte for Wake Forest School of Medicine, and make capital improvements to the existing medical school in Winston-Salem.

An agreement is expected to be finalized by the end of this year.

The new merger talks comes 13 months after Atrium Health's proposed merger with UNC Health Care fell apart.


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