Orlando Health, the University of Florida and Shands HealthCare Partner to Confront Health-Care Challenges

ORLANDO, Fla. - (Oct. 14, 2010) Orlando Health, the University of Florida and Shands HealthCare announced today their intent to collaborate on new health initiatives that will make care more accessible to millions of patients over a 20-county region and expand training opportunities for physicians.

Officials signed a memorandum of understanding that provides a foundation for these and other related efforts, a natural result of years of close working relationships.

Under the agreement, the organizations will negotiate to form joint clinical programs in the areas of pediatrics, neuroscience, oncology, women's health, transplantation and cardiovascular medicine, including a plan to develop a regional comprehensive cardiac care program. They also will look to increase undergraduate and graduate medical residency and fellowship training opportunities at Orlando Health, and open opportunities for conducting clinical trials through UF's robust clinical research program, while also launching common approaches to quality care and safety initiatives.

"The formal affiliation of Orlando Health with the University of Florida and Shands will build on our longstanding and valuable relationship and enhance our collective energies as regional and statewide clinical leaders," said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of the UF&Shands Health System. "As the health-care needs of patients throughout Central and North Central Florida continue to grow, we will seek out ways to collaborate on comprehensive clinical programs for adults and children and fortify our role as educational leaders in delivering the highest-quality education for future physicians and other health providers."

This agreement will pave the way for the organizations to meet new mandates under health-care reform, particularly those addressing quality of care.

"Our focus at Orlando Health has always been to provide patients with the highest quality of health care. New health-care reform initiatives add even greater emphasis to improving the quality and efficiency of health-care services," said John Hillenmeyer, president and CEO of Orlando Health. "This alliance will open additional opportunities for us to work together to implement programs and modify models and structures that will positively impact the quality of healthcare for patients across multiple Florida counties."

Physicians with these organizations will play an integral role in these efforts. Through this collaboration, Orlando Health physicians could receive faculty appointments, teach UF medical students or graduate medical trainees, or participate in UF-sponsored clinical trials. The agreement also could result in increased use of Orlando Health as a training site for UF medical residents and fellows. It is also envisioned that clinical faculty from UF's College of Medicine could participate with Orlando Health medical staff on future clinical services.

The alliance also opens up additional opportunities for the physician groups to work together to develop joint clinical protocols that will enhance quality and safety for patients.

More than 2.5 million Floridians across nearly 20 counties are served by the three health-care organizations.

In a proactive response to pending health-care reform mandates, the organizations will develop similar or compatible electronic medical records capabilities and quality information systems to ensure easy access to relevant patient health information. They also are seeking to develop a comprehensive system of care that provides a spectrum of health-care services - from primary care to the most complex, such as transplantation.

In addition, the organizations, which share a common set of values in education, research and charitable missions, will pursue joint safety net ventures to better provide care to the traditional "safety net" patient population. Safety net patients are patients with limited or no access to health care due to their financial circumstances, insurance status or health condition. 

"This collaboration lays the groundwork for advancing discussions to enhance patient care, medical education and research advances and will look to build upon affiliations each of the organizations already has in place with other health-care entities," Hillenmeyer said.

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