- If all goes according to plan, Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System will merge in April 2016, forming an as-yet-unnamed health system serving communities in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The two organizations filed a regulatory report in early January outlining their proposed operations post-merger, including a $150 million, 10-year investment in health IT infrastructure to support regional exchange of health information.
Wellmont and Mountain States said they would also be committing to approximately $350 million in other “transformational” investments over the same time period. They indicated the funding would be made possible through financial efficiencies achieved through the merger and would reach into the areas of population health improvements ($75 million), community health services ($140 million), and academic and research opportunities ($85 million).
The two organizations currently operate a combined 19 hospitals and numerous outpatient care sites.
“Our health systems are fortunate to have highly regarded physicians and other dedicated professionals who have enabled us to serve the region with distinction for decades,” said Bart Hove, Wellmont’s president and CEO, in a public statement. “Because of the investments we are committing to make, new opportunities will be created that will provide a brighter future with more opportunities for all because we will be a stronger organization together than would otherwise be the case.”
Wellmont and Mountain States said in their regulatory filing that the proposed merger would “result in a common platform for electronic medical records among the merging systems’ combined hospitals, many employed physicians and related services" and “facilitate a community health information exchange between participating community providers in the region.” They anticipate that sharing information will help to reduce unnecessary duplication of services, enhance documentation, and improve care coordination and the adoption of standardized best practices. They also expect patients to have greater access to their own health information
The organizations said they will “adopt a common clinical information technology platform as soon as reasonably practical after formation of the new health system” and will “participate meaningfully in a health information exchange open to community providers.” In addition, part of the plan would be to collaborate with independent physician groups to establish a region-wide clinical services network for sharing data, best practices and outcome-improvement initiatives.
The image below illustrates the geographic area to be served by the post-merger health system.
“Once the annually recurring merger related synergies have been fully realized, this merger will produce a level of annual spending to improve the health of the region equivalent to at least the spending capability of a new three-quarters of a billion dollar foundation. All of this investment will be in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, and it will focus on improving the health, well-being and economy of the communities we serve. Importantly, we can do all of this while maintaining local control of our healthcare system and improving the quality and cost of care,” according to Wellmont and Mountain States.
Officials told the Johnson City Press that all existing facilities would be kept open for at least five years after completion of the merger.