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Lifespan, Care New England and Brown University agree to form an academic health system

Attempts to merge these health systems date back years, but up until now the deal never went through.

Mallory Hackett, Associate Editor

After years of back and forth negotiations, the Providence Rhode Island-based health systems Lifespan and Care New England have signed a definitive agreement to merge and create an integrated academic health system with Brown University.

The soon-to-be-formed health system will combine Lifespan's Rhode Island, Miriam, Hasbro, Newport and Bradley hospitals and Care New England's Women & Infants, Kent and Butler hospitals with Brown's Warren Alpert Medical School.

To help facilitate the creation of the academic health system, Brown has committed to providing $125 million over five years. Additionally, representatives from Brown will sit on the board of the newly merged health system to help the hospitals integrate.

Once formed, the academic health system will offer a variety of medical specialties, conduct biomedical research and provide healthcare services to the Rhode Island community, according to the release.

Before the merger is complete, the health systems will need approval from the Rhode Island Department of Health, the state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission.


Attempts to merge these health systems date back years, but up until now, the deal never went through.

Originally, Care New England was going to be acquired by Partners HealthCare – now Mass General Brigham. But the deal was brought to an end in 2019 at the request of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo.

"While I have little control over private hospital systems, I do have the ability to bring these parties together and ask them to reconvene negotiations on a crucial decision that will impact all Rhode Islanders for decades," Raimondo said at the time.

"Partners is one of the best medical systems in the country, and we appreciate their interest in Rhode Island. Whether or not Rhode Island affiliates with a larger system at some point, I believe creating a more integrated, locally-run, academic structure first is what's in the best interest of Rhode Islanders now and in the long run."

Shortly after, however, Care New England's board voted to withdraw from merger talks with Lifespan and Brown. The board said it was in the best interest of Care New England and the community it serves to end the discussions.

Talks of merging picked back up last spring after Care New England and Lifespan began "working together in unprecedented ways" during the pandemic, The Providence Journal reported.

The two systems made it official in September when they signed a letter of intent to merge and got the go-ahead from both boards.


Analysts at Kaufman Hall anticipate the pandemic to serve as a catalyst for future deals and partnerships. The pandemic accelerated the need for initiatives that bring forth changes to the industry and reward thoughtful collaborations, they said.

Elsewhere, in New Jersey, RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers University recently furthered their existing partnership by combining the university's Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and RWJBarnabas Health's medical group practices.


"What I am most excited about is the ability of our new, locally based, academic health system to compete at a national level, innovate, attract top talent, develop new scientific knowledge, improve the care we deliver and serve as an economic engine for Providence and the state," said Dr. Timothy Babineau, the president and CEO of Lifespan. 

"This is an exciting moment in time, we cannot let it slip through our grasp yet again."

"The positive reaction that we've seen, really across the board, to the creation of this new system, has been outstanding," said Dr. James Fanale, the president and CEO of Care New England. "Our partners across the region, especially our internal colleagues and physicians, really support this because it's a very exciting proposition.

"Creating something new and visionary, but with concrete goals and true work plans, sets the integrated AHS up to achieve high-quality care with local access for the people that we serve. It is something to be proud of."

"Brown is excited to invest $125 million over five years to bring together the medical expertise and capacity needed to create exactly the kind of integrated academic health system that has provided such dramatic success in healthcare, medical education and biomedical innovation for other regions across the country," said Samuel Mencoff, chancellor of the corporation of Brown University.

Twitter: @HackettMallory
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