The Fairview brand name would disappear from Twin Cities medical facilities under merger talks authorized Friday by the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents that would combine the Fairview clinic and hospital system with the physician group of the U’s hospital and Medical School.
But a stronger, more efficient health care system should come into view for Twin Cities patients, leaders of the two organizations said.
While Fairview and University of Minnesota Physicians (UMP) already collaborate in running the university’s hospitals and clinics, their current bifurcated leadership has resulted in “thousands of contracts, wasted effort and resources, and considerable room for disagreement and tension,” according to a summary presented to the regents.
Combining them would make the providers more efficient in patient care, which will be rewarded under federal health care reform, and increase revenue that can be diverted to the U’s Academic Health Center for teaching and medical research, said Dave Murphy, Fairview’s interim chief executive.
“We believe there will be more money to invest in our health care system,” Murphy said, “because we will be delivering better care. And when you deliver better care, patients come to you.”
The merger would give each side something it needs. UMP’s specialists and clinical researchers would benefit from the broader patient base of Fairview, which operates 42 clinics and seven hospitals and is aligned with the Ebenezer long-term care organization. Fairview would have more direct access to the U’s specialists in rare and deadly diseases, and to its cutting-edge medical technology.
Patients would benefit from a unified health care system capable of treating everything from “a scraped knee to a lung transplant,” Murphy said, and fostering collaboration by primary care doctors and specialists. “There is a chance for us to be something that no one else in this state or region can be,” he said.
Over time, the merged organizations also would try to eliminate redundancies such as separate billing systems, which have often resulted in patients receiving multiple bills for single visits.
The new organization would be known as M Health, taken from the two-year-old partnership between Fairview and UMP to operate university medical facilities. A new chief executive would be hired and a consolidated board would be appointed, with equal input from Fairview and UMP.
Both organizations already contribute millions of dollars annually to the U’s Academic Health Center. But with savings expected, the new system would create a new formula based on net income that could divert even more money to teaching and research, said Dr. Brooks Jackson, dean of the U’s Medical School. “If the whole system does well,” he said, “the Academic Health Center would benefit.”
The well-known Fairview brand at other locations, such as Southdale Hospital in Edina and Ridges Hospital in Burnsville, would be replaced. The name has existed since 1906, when Lutheran congregations helped found the health care organization to care for Norwegian immigrants. Fairview took over operation of the financially struggling university hospital in 1997, and at one point had top billing when the hospital was renamed Fairview-University Medical Center.
Dr. Bobbi Daniels, UMP’s chief executive, said the lofty goals of a “world class” medical school won’t be achieved without an equally renowned health care system. She said the U of M brand will help draw more patients to achieve that goal.
“The power of the name is really important,” she said, “for the strength of the academic mission and the breadth of referrals.”