Health Systems Sign Agreement to Affiliate


ANN ARBOR — MidMichigan Health and the University of Michigan Health System solidified a partnership on June 21, when both health care organizations signed an agreement to affiliate.

The partnership is intended to expand access, quality, and the level of care provided for patients who live in the 14-county region served by MidMichigan Health. It will ensure that patients receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time. The agreement follows an announcement of the intended affiliation made late last summer.

“Through this affiliation, the University of Michigan Health System and MidMichigan Health will further the delivery of high-quality health care to residents in our region,” said Diane Postler-Slattery, MidMichigan Health president and chief executive officer. “The University of Michigan Health System is nationally ranked for quality, safety, and expertise, and our patients prefer going to Ann Arbor when treatment is not available through MidMichigan Health. We have complementary interests and goals, with both organizations recognized for quality and the depth of care we provide. The partnership gives our patients a new level of care.”

“We are so pleased to finalize this strategic affiliation with MidMichigan Health, which has a proud history of ensuring high quality care,” said Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Michigan and CEO of UMHS. “Working together, we will improve the health of our patients and find new ways to cooperate for better care.”

MidMichigan and UMHS are already working together to provide expedited access to clinical specialists and treatments not available in the region and to deepen clinical collaboration, first in cancer and cardiovascular services, with other specialty areas to be phased in.

Throughout the United States, health systems are seeking affiliations and alignment with other health systems and physician groups to prepare for new insurance payment models that require high quality care for large populations of people at an appropriate cost.  The affiliation positions both organizations to succeed in this new environment.

The agreement gives UMHS a small minority equity interest in MidMichigan Health and two seats on the 17-member MidMichigan Health Board of Directors. Joining the board of directors are Doug Strong, MBA, CEO of the U-M Hospitals and Health Centers, and David Spahlinger, executive director of the U-M Faculty Group Practice and senior associate dean for clinical affairs at the U-M Medical School.

“MidMichigan Health was formed in the early 1980s when MidMichigan Medical Center–Clare joined MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland. Since that time, we’ve grown to serve the region with broader and deeper health services than ever before, making us a nationally recognized, regional leader in health care,” said Eric P. Blackhurst, chair, MidMichigan Health Board of Directors. “The MidMichigan Health partnership with the University of Michigan Health System is the logical next step in our continued growth. This is the right time for an alliance that helps us prepare for the future of health care and reinforces the bright future of MidMichigan Health.

“The board of directors is pleased with this close relationship with our new partner,” he adds. “We congratulate and are grateful for the administrators and physicians who worked so diligently to construct an affiliation that benefits the people we serve in the region. Discussions begun under the leadership of Richard M. Reynolds, who retired in December 2012, have been successfully carried forward to completion by our new president and CEO, Diane Postler-Slattery.”

“Physicians at UMHS and MidMichigan Health are sharing clinical protocols and best practices with one another,” said Lydia Watson, vice president and chief quality and safety officer of MidMichigan Health. “One of the first advances we are making is physician to physician collaboration. Members of our medical staffs have had the opportunity to meet on a number of occasions, and this face-to-face interaction has been very valuable.”

Throughout the region, patients of MidMichigan Health have indicated a strong preference for UMHS when care is not available locally. MidMichigan physicians have a history of working closely with UMHS specialists.

That partnership will continue and grow under the new affiliation, says Dr. Spahlinger, who heads the Faculty Group Practice that includes the 1,700 U-M Medical School faculty physicians who provide and lead care at all UMHS locations. “The role of physicians from both U-M and MidMichigan in shaping the specifics of this affiliation will be crucial to its success,” he comments. “As we move forward into the next phase of development, we will engage on many fronts to ensure a fruitful partnership.”

Strong notes that the new clinical partnership with MidMichigan Health allows the two systems to explore many new joint efforts. “We look forward to evaluating options for telemedicine that can link physicians and even patients across distances using technology, and considering how we can share best practices for clinical care, clinical data analysis and information technology use. We are pleased to have such quality-minded partners,” he says.