Sentara Healthcare, Cone Health walk away from affiliation deal

Sentara Healthcare and Cone Health have stepped away from a potential affiliation proposed by the two nonprofit integrated health systems back in August, according to a recent joint announcement.

The organizations’ boards came to the mutual decision to stay separate late last week and cited the well-being of their respective communities as the primary reason for the decision.

“Sentara and Cone Health remain aligned and in agreement that our first priority is to those we serve, and we believe this will be better done as independent organizations," Howard Kern, president and CEO of Sentara Healthcare, said in a statement. “I have no doubt that Cone Health will remain a top tier health system and will continue to pursue new and innovative ways to provide value for North Carolinians for years to come.”

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Norfolk, Virginia-based Sentara includes 12 hospitals in Virginia and North Carolina in addition to other outpatient campuses and services.

Alongside its 3,800-plus provider staff and nearly 30,000 employees, it also runs two health plans, Optima Health and Virginia Premier, that cover more than 850,000 members in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio.

Greensboro, North Carolina-based Cone Health staffs 13,000 employees and 1,800 physician partners across five hospitals and more than 100 other sites across the state. Also among its operations are the Triad HealthCare Network, an accountable care organization and subsidiary HealthTeam Advantage, which offers Medicare Advantage plans to over 15,000 beneficiaries.

The affiliation would have seen Kern take the helm of a combined organization headquartered in Sentara’s home of Norfolk. Cone Health CEO Terry Akin would have become president of a division centered in Greensboro.

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At the time, the nonprofits touted an ideological alignment between their two organizations. Akins stressed that Cone Health would “not grow, just for growth’s sake” but that the system was moving forward in the hopes that a combined entity could potentially improve health outcomes and reduce costs for consumers.  

“In the final analysis, we mutually decided that we can best serve our communities by remaining independent organizations,” Akins said in the most recent announcement. “We have developed a high regard for the excellent services and outcomes Sentara delivers, and we expect both our organizations to continue to advance our common goals of providing outstanding care for our respective communities.”