Arizona will see more physician and allied health professionals trained, improved patient care, more medical technologies and discoveries plus hospital infrastructure improvements and the launch of a major multi-specialty outpatient center in Tucson under a historic agreement signed Thursday.
The University of Arizona Health Network's board and the Arizona Board of Regents each unanimously approved an agreement between the network and the Phoenix-based Banner Health during a special meeting held Thursday morning in Tucson. A definitive agreement will be finalized by the fall with a signing planned for September.
Under the agreement, UAHN and Banner Health will merge to create a statewide health care organization and a comprehensive new model for academic medicine. The agreement – aligned with the goals in the UA’s "Never Settle” strategic plan—will transform the health care landscape in Arizona and will generate approximately $1 billion in new capital, academic investments and other benefits the statewide community.
"In this incredibly rapidly changing and very tumultuous environment, clinical partners are absolutely imperative for success moving forward," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart.
"These 30 years, which this agreement anticipates, are going to be among the most transformative in health care in America compared to what we have experienced in the last century. This is extremely exciting, and I hope you can feel our commitment," Hart said. "We are going to make the future. We are not going to be recipients of a future made by others.”
Hart and others involved in the new agreement emphasized that creating synergistic and strategic alignment between the academic and clinical sides of health care is crucial for addressing the requisite educational, financial and structural needs in Arizona. Such strategies, they said, will enable UAHN and Banner to also greatly enhance medical education, to improve population health, to transform personalized medicine and to address pervasive health disparities that exist in and beyond Arizona.
"This is two leaders within our state coming together at a time when both higher education as an industry and health care as an industry are undergoing the most disruptive innovation and change of a lifetime," said former Regent Anne Mariucci, a UAHN board member.
"We now have, with this historic opportunity in front of us, and for the first time in a long time, an Arizona base that will come out of this with the stature, the ability, the portfolio and the talent to become a regional and national leader," Mariucci said.
The new agreement is expected to result in improved care for the state's citizens by reliably and compassionately delivering care to all who turn to the system, according to UAHN and Banner officials. The new system will also improve patient and member experiences at lower costs through the use of population health management models that emphasize wellness.
"There is an unwavering focus on what we do in caring for our patients and how we can do that better," said Peter S. Fine, president and CEO of Banner Health. "You marry that with the scientific and academic approach, and it is our strong hope that the end game of that is an enhanced capacity to produce better clinical outcomes."
Other proposed transition key elements under the agreement include:
- The 6,300 employees working at UAHN's two hospitals, the health plan and UAHN itself will transition into Banner. The transition will create Arizona's largest private employer, with more than 37,000 employees.
- Securing and sustaining a lasting relationship with, and commitment to, the UA, anchored by an Academic Division within Banner. The University of Arizona Medical Center, University and South campuses, Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center and the faculty practice plan, will support the growing needs of the UA colleges of medicine in Phoenix and Tucson and create a value-based delivery system.
- Expanding the UA Medical Center's capabilities for complex academic and clinical programs such as transplantations, neurosciences, genomics-driven precision health, geriatrics and pediatrics while providing for investment opportunities in other areas.
- Bolstering fiscal sustainability by eliminating persistent shortfalls and low operating margins currently experienced by UAHN through the elimination of the network's projected $146 million debt burden and the creation of a $300 million endowment to provide a $20 million annually to advance the UA's clinical and translational research mission. Also, the medical center will be renovated and new facilities will be built.
"Today isn't about our past. It's about one thing: excelling into the future," said Dr. Michael Waldrum, UAHN President and CEO. "This day is about confronting our realities and building on a legacy of excellence, charting the path to the future of Arizona."
Mark Killian, vice chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, noted that the regents charged Hart with ensuring that the UA would come to be known for having "the premiere, if not the best, medical school in America," and that the new agreement is aiding in that goal.
"We are doing something today, and the benefits to the people of Arizona are enormous when you look at the relationships we have created, the opportunities for our medical students, the access to new technologies and the new care to our patients," Killian said.
"The benefits that come back to our taxpayers are a great blessing to this state. We hope, as people think about what has happened, they will recognize that the board of regents is serious about our commitment to making Arizona the destination for medical research, medical care and medical science," he said. "When I get old, I want the very best doctors taking care of me, and I want them coming from a school in Arizona, not New York."