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Atrium Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest University intend to merge

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Atrium Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest University have signed a memorandum of understanding to create a new academic healthcare system. The deal would also include plans to develop a second Wake Forest School of Medicine campus in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The aim is to enter a final agreement later in 2019.

All three organizations are located in North Carolina. Atrium is in Charlotte, while the Wake Forest entities are headquartered in Winston-Salem.

According to a news release, the combined organization would unite Atrium’s destination clinical programs in areas like cancer, pediatric health, heart and musculoskeletal with Wake Forest Baptist Health’s research in aging and Alzheimer’s, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, neurosciences and regenerative medicine. Additionally, the system would create a translational research and population health center in Winston-Salem.

It would also take an interest in medical education through the envisioned second medical school campus. The combined organization would educate almost 3,200 individuals, including students, residents and fellows across more than 100 programs annually.

“It’s incredible to think about the impact we can make, together, advancing patient-centered research, a next-generation curriculum and active population health analytics across our combined footprint,” Julie Ann Freischlag, CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Health and dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine, said in a statement. “We can create amazing outcomes that embrace true change — most importantly enhancing, extending and saving the lives of countless people.”

This isn’t the first merger Atrium has pursued. Though it attempted to unite with UNC Health Care, it suspended merger talks with the system at the beginning of 2018. More recently, it completed a merger with Macon, Georgia-based Navicent Health.

Other health systems have been uniting as well. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health recently merged, and Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives banded together to form a $29 billion system.

But for some, the plans never come to fruition. In October, Texas healthcare giants Baylor Scott & White Health and Memorial Hermann Health System signed a letter of intent to form a new health system. However, in February, they scrapped their merger plans.

Discussions with experts highlight how factors like culture and regulatory approval can impact whether such deals work out, as well as how hospital mergers can impact prices and quality of care.

Photo: AndreyPopov, Getty Images

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