UMMC affiliates with Vanderbilt to share programs, cut costs

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The University of Mississippi Medical Center announced Monday that it will officially affiliate with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a move that UMMC said would improve health care quality at both institutions while allowing them to cut costs.

“(Vanderbilt) and UMMC share the common goal of improving the health of the populations we serve through outstanding patient care, biomedical research and teaching,” said Dr. Charles O’Mara, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs at UMMC.

“As the leading academic medical centers in our respective adjoining states, we also face many of the same or similar opportunities and challenges in today’s changing health care landscape. Fortunately, both institutions currently enjoy an upward trajectory on many fronts and have strengths that nicely complement one another.”

According to a press release from UMMC, the affiliation will allow the two institutions to share new clinical programs and services and provide a pathway for UMMC and Vanderbilt to formally collaborate on programs, research and, potentially, medical training through their schools.

Unlike a merger, in which one hospital system buys another, an affiliation is a looser agreement, allowing each hospital system to remain independently owned while sharing some costs and making collaboration on projects and services easier.

Although UMMC remained tight-lipped about a possible affiliation with Vanderbilt until Monday, hospital affiliations and mergers, even among bigger institutions, are increasingly common as the cost of caring for patients continues to outpace many insurance reimbursements.

In the last year alone, Mississippi Baptist merged with the Memphis-based Baptist Memorial Health Care, creating the largest hospital system in the state. The move was largely driven by the high cost of updating electronic medical records. Later last year, the county-owned OCH Regional Medical Center in Starkville survived a referendum on selling the hospital to a larger private entity, only to announce weeks later that it was considering affiliating with several private hospital systems.

In December, UMMC announced its own affiliation with the smaller Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian. In 2014, UMMC entered into a leasing agreement with the former Grenada Lakes Medical Center. Both mergers were largely driven by financial concerns, UMMC said at the time.

“Year after year, Southern states consistently rank near the bottom in the nation for certain health and wellness metrics,” said Dr. C. Wright Pinson, (Vanderbilt) deputy chief executive officer and chief health system officer. “This agreement creates opportunities for our organizations to develop programs and services that will benefit the communities we serve while advancing our mission to improve the health of citizens who live throughout the Southeast.”