ECU, Vidant Health announce joint operating agreement

Health

GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Health on Friday took the first step in the final approval process in creating ECU Health with a goal of becoming a national academic model for providing rural health care.

ECU’s Board of Trustees approved a joint operating agreement between the Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Health that will enable the two organizations to more effectively and efficiently addressing current issues facing the region ­­­­— such as health disparities and care delivery obstacles ­­­­— while also better anticipating future health care and educational needs.

Under the joint operating agreement, the Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Health will retain their separate legal entities but will function collaboratively under a new, shared brand launching in 2022, known as ECU Health. Most Vidant entities and ECU Physicians will operate under the new brand while the Brody School of Medicine’s name will not change.

“This agreement represents an important milestone in the long-standing affiliation between two entities bound by the same mission as we work toward the creation of ECU Health,” Chancellor Philip Rogers said. “It signals the point where we can begin to move forward together on our journey to launch a clinically integrated academic health system and deliver on the commitment to provide quality health care for all eastern North Carolinians.”

The agreement also requires approvals from the Vidant Health Board of Directors, Vidant Medical Center Board of Trustees, the Pitt County Board of Commissioners and the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. The UNC Board of Governors is expected to consider the agreement for final approval during its Nov. 17-18 meeting.

The majority of Vidant Health’s locations, Vidant Medical Group and ECU Physicians will rebrand to ECU Health. However, there are no changes to the employment status or benefits of current employees – and no assets are exchanged – as a result of the approval of the joint operating agreement.

ECU and Vidant Health announced their intentions to clinically integrate in June when Dr. Michael Waldrum, chief executive officer of Vidant Health and distinguished professor at the Brody School of Medicine, was appointed dean of the Brody School of Medicine. Waldrum continues to serve as CEO of Vidant Health in a dual role that is further outlined by the joint operating agreement.

“Today’s announcement is about the residents of eastern North Carolina and brings into reality the collective vision our two institutions have shared for nearly 50 years,” Waldrum said. “Rebranding Vidant to ECU Health in 2022 further signals and strengthens our commitment to bring the best research, doctors and care to the East. We have proven in recent years, and particularly during the pandemic, what can be accomplished when we focus our energies on the mission to improve the health of eastern North Carolina.”

The joint operating agreement is a legal framework that will allow the work of clinical integration and rebranding to begin in earnest with the purpose of:

  • Improving the value of and the access to quality care and providing patients with a more streamlined health care experience.
  • More efficiently using clinical staff across the combined operations, regardless of which organization employs them.
  • Helping to facilitate new strategies and interventions for the most prevalent health needs of eastern North Carolina.
  • Creating operational efficiencies and reducing costs.
  • Establishing a shared leadership and governance structure for ECU Health.

Under the terms of the agreement, which will be effective Jan. 1, 2022, the two organizations will work together to:

  • Evaluate and modify existing practices to improve quality and coordination of care.
  • Integrate certain management structures and strategic planning efforts.
  • Develop a plan for shared services to support the integrated entity.
  • Leverage the capabilities of each organization to advance the collective research and education infrastructure.
  • Coordinate philanthropic initiatives.

“Our mission has not and will not change. How we execute the mission is what is at issue,” said Dr. Jason Higginson, executive dean of the Brody School of Medicine. “We are going to be looking at areas where efficiencies can be built into our process and where value can be added to what we’re doing to improve the final outcome. So rest assured, what Brody is here for and what it stands for is not changing.”

Waldrum noted that the Brody School of Medicine has a rich history of training physicians for North Carolina and that mission will continue as ECU Health serves the 1.4 million residents of eastern North Carolina.

“Through harmonizing our operations wherever possible and building on our unique expertise in caring for rural and underserved communities, ECU Health will set the standard and be a national model for rural health care delivery,” Waldrum said.

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