updated: University of Michigan Health System and Trinity Health announce new affiliation agreement
The University of Michigan Health System and Trinity Health-Michigan have signed a new master affiliation agreement that paves the way for close cooperation between the two health systems that will benefit patients around the state.
According to a news release, "The agreement signals an intention to work together on specific opportunities that may be developed by teams of physicians and leaders from both systems."
The affiliation begins first in southeast Michigan, including Ann Arbor, where the University Hospitals are just a few miles from St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.
The goal is to extend it statewide, according to officials.
The two systems have "been working together over the years," said Garry Faja, president and chief executive officer of Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. "This formalizes it, based on some guiding principles."
Patients will receive care in the most appropriate place, according to the announcement. It also will "seek to improve the safety net for the uninsured."
The agreement - initiated in mid-2011 - also calls for both systems to explore best options for:
- inpatient hospital capacity.
- high- complexity care for the most seriously ill patients.
- children’s care.
- cancer care.
- physician training and hiring.
- clinical research.
- support services such as information technology.
Both health systems also will be positioned to take advantage of new federal programs that provide incentives for organizations to coordinate care.
“We are thrilled to embark on this level of affiliation, which makes us Trinity’s preferred academic partner in Michigan and sets the stage for great things to come,” said Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., the executive vice president for medical affairs at U-M and CEO of UMHS, in a news release. “This makes possible so many opportunities that could benefit patients statewide by providing the care they need at the best place for them, ensuring our future supply of physicians and creating new knowledge from research.”
Staffing at the health centers won't change, Faja said. And there is no plan to realign departments.
"That's not in the vision of this agreement."
However, future space needs may be affected by the affiliation.
"Instead of building new facilities, (it could let us) look at how to use existing facilities to a higher capacity," Faja said.
Trinity Health operates hospitals in Chelsea, Howell, Livonia, Pontiac, Port Huron and Saline; Grayling and Cadillac in northern Michigan; and Mercy Health in Grand Rapids and Muskegon.
UMHS recently opened a new, $754 million Mott Children's Hospital among its other capital improvements in recent years.
There are no cost-savings projects so far, Faja said.
The next step is to establish an oversight group, he said, with teams that define the scope of work and time lines. That group has not been determined, but it will include top administration and physicians.
The agreement is not exclusive, Faja said. Existing collaborations - such as with Michigan State University and Wayne State University - will continue.
One example of how the collaboration will work is in cancer care, Faja said. Trinity Health operates 16 cancer centers as the Mercy Cancer Network in southern Michigan, while U-M pursues a level of research, like Phase 1 clinical trials, that Trinity doesn't.
"This can improve how we deliver cancer services," Faja said.
The statewide elements of the affiliation make it important to the future of Michigan's health care industry, Faja said. Costs ultimately should be contained as a result of this initial move.
"I think the way the market is changing, with the discussions of health care reform, that you'll be seeing more people tyring to collaborate and respond to the health care needs of the community ... and not compete," Faja said.