R.I. will benefit from a unified health-care system – Health News Today

Timothy J. Babineau, MD, is president and chief executive officer of Lifespan. James E. Fanale, MD, is president and chief executive officer of Care New England.

Last week, the board of directors of both Lifespan and Care New England — following intensive discussions between the parties over the summer — voted to sign a letter of intent to merge their two systems into a single unified academic health-care system affiliated with Brown University. This vote marks a major and important milestone toward delivering on a vision for health care that has eluded the state for more than 20 years. What does it really mean?

It means a new opportunity to deliver improved, seamless and coordinated care to all patients, to keep health care and jobs local, and to contain costs. Our health-care system in this state has been clinically fragmented for decades. Bringing the two systems together will finally allow us to create the type of care coordination that research has demonstrated improves health-care quality and better controls costs. Massachusetts has four such unified health-care systems. It is time for Rhode Island to have at least one.

When health-care providers operate within the same system — with the same policies, procedures, and practices — care improves, as does the patient experience. For example, operating with a single electronic health record will greatly enhance access and care coordination among specialties, resulting in more efficient and coordinated inpatient and outpatient care.

Strengthening the partnership among key clinical areas, such as behavioral health and recovery support, home care and geriatrics, women’s and children’s services, adult and child mental health, and drawing on each organization’s strengths in areas such as cardiac, neurosciences, oncology and orthopedic programs will create national centers of excellence attracting patients throughout the region and beyond.

With Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School, the academic health system will be a magnet for the recruitment of medical/scientific professionals and a catalyst for increased research, grant funding, innovation and technology advancement, right here in Rhode Island. One needs only to look to the north to see the explosion in life sciences research and development centers. Boston’s Longwood Medical and Academic Area and Cambridge’s Kendall Square both have innovation districts anchored by academic health-care systems.

We can — and should — create one here in Providence as well. Finally, necessary and critical investments in our hospitals, clinics and laboratories would be more strategic, more complementary, more efficient and more rational.

Marshaling our combined resources will also better position us to address community needs, public health emergencies such as the current COVID-19 pandemic and any future pandemics and social determinants of health. Both Lifespan and Care New England have developed a range of care to meet the…