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Atrium Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest University partner for new academic health system

Plans include a new medical school in Charlotte that will expand patient-centered research currently in place in Winston-Salem.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

Atrium Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest University have announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding to combine and create an academic healthcare system in North Carolina.

The organizations said they have agreed to start a period of exclusive negotiations, with the goal of entering into a final agreement later this year.

Plans include building a second medical school campus in Charlotte that is part of the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

THE IMPACT

The North Carolina systems say they can fuel new scientific discoveries through the advancement of large-scale research within the settings where patients are already receiving care.

A combined organization brings together Atrium Health's programs such as cancer, children's, heart and musculoskeletal, and the Wake Forest Baptist Health's clinical leadership and research in aging and Alzheimer's disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, neurosciences and regenerative medicine.

The systems said they use data, evidence-driven public health programs and value-based care models to improve the social determinants of health and primary care for better health and well-being for the nearly 6.8 million residents near the respective service areas.

The merger also addresses academic medical training.

A combined organization would educate nearly 3,200 total healthcare learners each year. This includes students, residents and fellows across more than 100 specialized training programs.

It is expected to attract top medical education faculty to enhance innovative teaching methods and create new models of care, adding to the already 1,650 full-time and part-time faculty positions at Wake Forest School of Medicine and Atrium Health.

WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW

Atrium Health is an integrated not-for-profit healthcare system across 42 hospitals. It currently has more than 1,000 active studies underway across more than 50 sites of care, and a research portfolio that has grown nearly 40 percent over the previous two years.

Wake Forest Baptist Health is a nationally-ranked academic medical center which works as one with the School of Medicine. It is a regional healthcare system of seven hospitals.

Wake Forest School of Medicine receives more than 10,700 applications for 145 Doctor of Medicine positions each year, in addition to having top programs for physician assistants, certified registered nurse anesthetists and Doctor of Nursing practice. It gets more than $210 million in annual research funding from the National Institutes of Health and other external sources.

TREND

Healthcare partnerships are promoted as a way to get to scale and value-based outcomes without the debt of acquisition.

A combined organization would coordinate many multi-site clinical research collaborations around the U.S., such as the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), the Search for Diabetes in Youth (SEARCH) and POINTER, a U.S. study to protect brain health through lifestyle intervention.

By uniting each organization's research and clinical strengths, the new organization would have national rankings by U.S. News & World Report in seven adult specialties and six pediatric specialties.

ON THE RECORD

"This is an exciting prospect that will have positive state and national impacts in addition to benefiting the Charlotte and Winston-Salem communities," said Nathan O. Hatch, president of Wake Forest University. "By strengthening medical education in Winston-Salem and bringing a medical school to Charlotte, we will open many doors for future healthcare leaders and also play a nationally leading role in research."

"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," said Eugene A. Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com

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