Benefits of a Single, Unified Academic Health Care System for Rhode Island

Timothy J. Babineau, MD, President and CEO, Lifespan

Last June, the leaders of Lifespan and Care New England—with the support of their respective boards of directors—began a process that contemplated the two organizations coming together in a unified academic health care system. The vision was compelling. In September, the boards voted to sign a letter of intent to continue the exploratory and due diligence process, which we hope will eventually lead to a merger of the two systems in partnership with Brown University. Such an outcome would provide many benefits to both organizations as well as to the state and people of Rhode Island. Lifespan and CNE had opportunities to work together during the height of the pandemic, and both organizations found the sharing of information, expertise, and resources to be of enormous value to each system but, more importantly, to the patients we serve. 

Joining the two systems in concert with Brown will make it possible to provide seamless care, throughout all phases of life and across all clinical needs and levels of care, to patients in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. It will also keep health care and jobs local, thus controlling costs and quality, as research has shown. When health care providers work together within the same health system – with the same policies, procedures, and best practices – care quality improves. It is time to work toward a single, unified academic health care system in an effort to resolve some of the inefficient clinical fragmentation that has existed for years in Rhode Island health care.

Both Lifespan and CNE use an Epic-based electronic health system. Combining them will greatly enhance both access and care coordination among our many medical specialties, which will include behavioral health, adult and child mental health, neurosciences, orthopedic programs, home care, women’s and children’s care, and more. Enhanced cardiology, orthopedic, and cancer programs will create national centers of excellence and attract patients throughout the region. 

The academic strength of Brown’s Alpert Medical School will enable us to become a life sciences research and development center – a magnet for recruiting medical and scientific professionals and a catalyst for research and innovation/technology advancement here in Rhode Island. Currently, Lifespan alone trains more than 600 clinicians a year, many of whom decide to practice in Rhode Island based on their experiences during their training.

The combined resources of the new entity will allow us to better address community needs and make the necessary investments in our hospitals and other facilities. The single, unified health care system will create economies of scale while ensuring a stable work force that is best able to effectively respond to any health care crisis or economic downturn, such as we have experienced in recent years. A solid combined system will benefit everyone, from the state to ancillary businesses, to hospital staffs, to patients. We hope to bring our shared vision to reality in the months to come.

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