Fairview, University of Minnesota Physicians announce plans to merge

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Two of Minnesota's largest health care systems have announced plans to merge.

Fairview Health Services and University of Minnesota Physicians signed letters of intent to move forward with the deal, which will likely occur in mid-2016.

Fairview has a network of clinics and hospitals, including the University of Minnesota Medical Center. The U of M Physicians runs its own set of clinics.

If the merger goes as planned, all those separate entities will be combined under one operation called University of Minnesota Health, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

In a Friday news release from the two entities, officials said they envision a "true partnership" that combines the strengths of both systems and leads to more efficient patient care.

"The potential integration mirrors a growing national trend to combine academic medical centers and health systems with the aim to enhance clinical care while accelerating research efforts to help bring new treatments and cures to patients more quickly and more efficiently," they said, according to the news release.

All three entities currently collaborate in the operations of the U of M's hospitals and clinics. But the separate leadership hasn't always gone smoothly because of duplicate efforts and disagreements between employees of both systems, the Star Tribune reports.

The combined enterprise will have one board of directors, one integrated physician group, one chief executive officer, one leadership team and one care team working under one name.

Another goal of the merger is to raise the profile of the U of M's medical school, according to the Pioneer Press. Right now it's not ranked in the top 25 in the nation.

“An academic health center needs to be part of a comprehensive health system in order to be world class in the prevention and treatment of disease and to train the future leaders in the health sciences,” said Dr. Brooks Jackson, dean of the medical school.

University officials have a goal to elevate the med school's ranking into the top 20 in the next five years, the Pioneer Press notes.

The merger is not expected to require any funding from the Legislature, according to the newspaper.

The three organizations expect it'll take about six months to hammer out all the details of the merger agreement, with an effective date of July 1, 2016.

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