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More Health Systems Bet on Clinical Integration

By jfellows@healthleadersmedia.com  
   February 12, 2015

Another large health system is betting on clinical integration with independent and employed physicians, and the trend is likely to continue.

WellStar Health System made big news this week with the announcement that it was in merger discussions with Emory Healthcare. WellStar is the largest nonprofit health system in Georgia; merging with Emory Healthcare, which includes the flagship Emory University, would give the system academic support that CEO Reynold Jennings says is needed to help improve and inform physicians on evidence-based guidelines.

"One of the reasons you're going to see a trend of strong community health systems joining with academic medical centers is that they have researchers," says Jennings. "It's a good partnership to give physicians confidence that there are no top-down driven standards."

Another trend that will continue is the development of clinical integration networks. Dignity Health, Baylor Scott & White Health, Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, and now, WellStar Health, are all developing clinically integrated networks as part of their strategy to improve care along the continuum as well as engage and align with physicians.

WellStar Health's clinical integration effort was 14 months in the making, and it will go before the board for final approval next month. Out of 1,200 affiliated and employed physicians, Jennings says WellStar has received a "statement of interest" from 800 to be part of the network, which is called WellStar Clinical Partners.

Jacqueline Fellows is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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