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An integrated academic health system brings together teaching hospitals with leading research and medical education, in this case Lifespan and Care New England, with The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. This will create an integrated academic health system that has the full array of complementary medical specialties required for excellence in health care, biomedical research to remain on the leading edge of treatment and therapies, and the collaboration required to enable medical practitioners to effectively and efficiently provide health care to the community. This is a unique and valuable opportunity to bring together the expertise and capacity of three organizations to offer excellent, coordinated care to patients.
A highly functioning academic health system, such as the one that will be created by the partnership between Lifespan, Care New England and Brown University, will improve health care by providing and integrating care from birth to end-of-life, decreasing health care costs and enhancing the focus on disease prevention in the health of the entire population.
By leveraging the expertise of academic institutions and full-service teaching hospitals, integrated academic health systems are better equipped to create value-based purchasing and payment methodologies that address social determinants of health; provide care for our most vulnerable populations; and address chronic health issues such as cancer, heart disease and neurological disorders. A key goal of the integrated academic health system being created by Lifespan, Care New England and Brown University is increasing access to affordable, quality health care in Rhode Island communities.
Cancer research, brain science and women’s health are just a few areas in which Rhode Island patients will experience improvements in care, even as researchers make new discoveries.
A newly merged Lifespan and Care New England, in partnership with Brown University, will be positioned to receive a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation, which is the highest classification for cancer care across the country. A unified medical center means that Lifespan and Care New England can better distribute resources on across complementary specialties rather than duplicating services in areas such as women’s health. This will broaden and deepen expertise in a range of areas benefitting patient care, physician training and research into medical therapies.
For brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and ALS, there is a “transformational” opportunity to move research from the laboratory bench into the hands of clinicians taking care of patients at the hospital bedside.
The concept of an integrated academic health system being better for patients is not new, but now there are many factors that will allow this vision to finally come to fruition.
During the now many months of the COVID-19 crisis, Lifespan, Care New England and Brown have worked together in unprecedented ways — sharing information, expertise and resources to benefit population health and the health care ecosystem throughout Rhode Island. Through this work, we have cultivated a shared sense of purpose and set the foundation for a unified, robust academic health system that can overcome a crisis and thrive to support the well-being of the people of our state.
The capacity and ability to respond to unprecedented events affecting population health, such as a pandemic, will be enhanced with the merging of health systems and integration with renowned education and research.
Individually, Lifespan and Care New England are smaller than major academic medical centers. The proposed merger will combine the complementary strengths of the two systems and create much-needed scale as we work to strengthen population health initiatives and move into risk-based payment systems. The danger if they do not merge is the likelihood that, eventually, one or both health care systems would be compelled to merge with national, for-profit hospital systems or other regional systems from the north or south. This could have the damaging effect of moving high-quality, specialty care out of the state, further distancing it from our local communities.
Right now, research across Brown, Lifespan and Care New England is highly fragmented. This lack of research integration inhibits collaboration among the faculty and impacts our ability to compete with our peer institutions for grant funding.
A unified biomedical research effort in Rhode Island would help attract talented, world-class physician-scientists, leading to outstanding medical care. It will bring federal and private external grant dollars to the state. It will generate industry partnerships that create jobs and economic growth that benefit communities. The research partnership we are proposing would be an integral component of any future innovation economy in Rhode Island.
Brown University is committed to providing a minimum of $125 million over five years in support of the development of the academic health system.
The creation of an integrated academic health system that brings together The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University with Lifespan and Care New England is an opportunity to integrate the expertise and capacity of three organizations to offer excellent, coordinated care to patients and create a unified academic medical center that can fuel discovery and treatments.
The Warren Alpert Medical School and Brown School of Public Health educate cadres of outstanding future physicians and public health practitioners, many of whom live and work in the region, contributing to bio-innovation and supporting quality care for patients. More than 50 percent of physicians who receive their education and training at Brown remain in the state.
The integration of health care systems and research will bring about the tight integration of and alignment between clinical care, population health management, medical education, biomedical research and innovation, and research on health care quality, effectiveness and cost.
Lifespan and Care New England are complementary organizations, with little overlap in clinical services.
Together, Lifespan, Care New England and Brown will be a powerful economic engine that attracts federal research funding, generates biomedical innovation, attracts and retains talent, and attracts and creates new companies. These investments will support existing jobs and create new good paying jobs for the people of Rhode Island.
All three organizations – Lifespan, Care New England and Brown – share an important characteristic that makes them natural partners: each is a not-for-profit organization that, consistent with its charitable purposes, is charged with serving the public good.
With few exceptions Lifespan and Care New England offer do not compete on the basis of clinical services, rather they present complementary health care services , which can be expected to continue after the mergerlines. As such, consumers will have the same choice of service both before and after the merger, but with the benefit of an integrated health delivery system.
Rhode Island is unique among the 50 states with its regulatory structure through the state’s Office of Health Insurance Commissioner (OHIC), which has benefits for limiting increases in health care costs for Rhode Islanders. Currently, through OHIC, insurers cannot increase reimbursements to hospitals more than the 3.05% maximum by regulation.
The new entity created through the merger of Lifespan and Care New England will commit to annual rate cap boundaries established by OHIC for at least three years following the completion of the merger.
In addition, both Lifespan and CNE have voluntarily committed to support the governor of Rhode Island’s health care cost trend initiative to hold the total annual health care spending increases to 3.2%. This initiative urges not only hospitals but the entire health care delivery system to limit both unit price increases as well as utilization demand, while meeting certain quality parameters that ensure the populations served are being treated equitably and at the highest standards.
OHIC regulations and the governor’s health care trend initiative help ensure a reliable expectation of reasonable premium increases costs for businesses who provide health benefits to their employees.