Boston's largest academic medical centers taking another step closer under multiyear integration plan

Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the two flagship hospitals of nonprofit integrated system Mass General Brigham (MGB), will be consolidating their clinical and academic teams as singular departments to encourage cooperation and integrated care delivery across the organization.

The two academic medical centers came together 30 years ago to create the Partners HealthCare health system, which in 2019 was rebranded to the eponymous MGB. It now stands as the state’s largest health system with nearly $19 billion of operating revenue and holds affiliations with Harvard Medical School.

Its leading hospitals, however, have largely maintained separate operations within MGB’s broader structure. That’s now set to change amid the system’s broader push for tighter integration between its moving parts.

“If we want to be the best, highest-quality, safest and most respected health system in the country in service of our patients, the great departments across our academic centers must plan and work together as one,” Anne Klibanski, M.D., president and CEO of MGB, said in Wednesday’s announcement.

Through a transition that “will take place over the next several years,” duplicative clinical departments between the two hospitals will be combined and led by a single chair, MGB said. The move is “a critical step toward transforming patient experience, elevating quality and safety, clinical operations and better supporting our exceptional clinicians and researchers,” it said.

Additionally, the system will create “interdepartmental disease-focused institutes” that will facilitate research and teaching around specific conditions and patient needs. These would tap physicians and scientists from across the organization in a process modeled after the development of Mass General Brigham Cancer—MGB’s push to overhaul and streamline cancer care amid its breakup with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Creation of both the clinical departments and institutes will be informed by MGB’s employees, clinicians and academics, who MGB said “will have major voices” during the process.

To head it, the system has named Massachusetts General Hospital’s current president, David Brown, M.D., to take over leadership of both hospitals and oversight of the clinical departments under a new job title: president of academic medical centers at MGB. Brigham and Women’s former president, Robert Higgins, M.D., stepped down in January.

The current president of the Massachusetts General Hospital's physicians organization, Marcela del Carmen, M.D., will become president of Mass General, and current president of Brigham and Women’s physicians organization, Giles Boland, M.D., will be president of Brigham and Women’s.

“Our two amazing academic medical centers are so alike that bringing together the strengths of both will allow us to be a much more impactful enterprise in service of our patients,” Brown said in the announcement. “And we intend to do that with an eye toward making the delivery of care easier for our clinicians and staff.”

The consolidation has “unanimous support” from MGB’s board of trustees, its chair, Scott Sperling, said in the announcement.

MGB, which spans 15 hospitals plus physician networks, a health insurance plan and other community and home care services, reported an operating loss in its most recent fiscal year amid cost pressures. Its strategic focus in recent years has been heavy on integration and care collaboration, which the system said would increase efficiencies and enhance patient care.

The system has also been criticized by regulators who instructed the nonprofit to trim excess spending they said fueled higher healthcare costs across the state. Potential cost savings were not mentioned in MGB’s announcement of the hospitals' consolidation plan.