Atrium Health to merge with Navicent

Atrium Health, previously Carolinas HealthCare System, and Navicent Health signed a letter of intent to merge, the organizations announced Thursday.

The merger of not-for-profits would give Atrium Health a regional presence in Georgia, opportunity to expand to other areas and bolster its service lines. Macon, Ga.-based Navicent, which would become part of Atrium, would gain access to capital and benefit from spreading costs over a wider patient base.

The announcement came a day after Carolinas HealthCare changed its name to Atrium, in part because it wanted a name that didn’t limit it to a certain geography.

“As not-for-profits continue to come together to build scale to drive affordability, care quality and cost savings, we are doubling down on that idea, and shouldn’t be limited to inside the state lines,” said Gene Woods, president and CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium. “Navicent has a regional hub in Georgia and we can help broaden the community they serve, and possibly create a model for further expansion.”

Both organizations, which operate on Cerner’s electronic health record, are committed to caring for vulnerable communities and improving access, said Navicent President and CEO Dr. Ninfa Saunders. Saunders also co-founded Stratus, a collaboration of physicians and hospitals that aims to fill information gaps to better care for rural communities.

“This gives organizations around us an opportunity to join us,” she said. “Hopefully there is a catalytic function to this strategic combination.”

Whether it’s a certain service line, a favorable payer mix or additional access points, health systems have targeted particular regions to grow, picking up where national players have struggled to manage costs and realize a return.

Navicent is building Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital in Macon, Ga., which complements Atrium’s Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, Woods said. There are also opportunities to expand oncology lines, post-acute care, telemedicine and behavioral health services.

“Sharing our infrastructure and analytics will give us the ability to better manage populations and identify best practices,” Woods said.

Atrium, the largest hospital system in North Carolina, is also pursuing a mergerwith UNC Health Care, based in Chapel Hill, N.C.