In late January, six hospitals in the Jackson-Vicksburg area that are affiliated with Community Health Systems formed a single regional healthcare system named Merit Health.
Five months later, the six remaining CHS-affiliated hospitals across Mississippi were folded into Merit Health, creating what is said to be the state’s largest healthcare system based on the number of facilities. The hospitals are located from Batesville to Biloxi.
Officials said the Jackson and Vicksburg area hospitals had been working together for some time to coordinate their clinical and administrative strategies in information technology, patient safety, clinical protocols and other areas.
“By coming together under this new structure, new opportunities were created to expand services in primary care, medical and surgical sub-specialties, and to help recruit new physicians to the market,” said Tobey Houston, vice president of Merit Health’s network development.
“As affiliates, our hospitals already have a lot in common and enjoy strong working relationships and crossover in the patient populations we serve,” she said. “Joining together in a statewide healthcare system was a logical next step.”
The 12 hospitals in the network have approximately 2,300 licensed beds, 2,500 physicians on the combined active medical staffs, and 7,000 employees. They have a total of more than 53,000 admissions and 300,000 emergency department visits each year.
Additionally, all 120 hospital-affiliated physician practices across the state are now part of Merit Health Medical Group.
Houston said the newly created network follows a strategy seen in a changing health care industry.
“This is an opportunity to combine the strengths and talents of our hospitals and providers into a single, stronger statewide health system to better serve our patients and communities,” she said.
“There are significant changes occurring in the healthcare industry as medical advances and technology change where and how we provide care. Many hospitals across our nation are finding ways to work together to share best practices and serve patients.”
Following such a strategy does have risks and rewards, she said.
“With change, there is always a risk and some unanticipated opportunities. However, with our resources, combined strengths and greater size, we will be able to respond more quickly to these changes and positively impact health care issues across Mississippi,” she said.
She said that Merit Health hospitals will be able to share best clinical practices for quality care, achieve operational efficiencies, expand important services and improve access to primary, acute and post-acute care services across the state.
All of the hospitals have been renamed to reflect their affiliation with Merit Health but Houston said some other things won’t change.
“Merit Health hospitals’ commitment to caring for the members of their communities will continue. Being part of a growing organization strengthens what we can offer them,” she said.
“Through a common name and brand, patients can know to expect the same high quality, personalized care – no matter what location they visit. Internally, physicians, staff and patients have a better understanding of the services, scope and growing size of our network.”