PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — As Brown University, Lifespan and Care New England continue to advance plans toward a world-class integrated academic health system that serves the people of Rhode Island, leaders from those organizations and experts in health care economics shared their perspectives in a Wednesday, Dec. 15, virtual event sponsored by the Partnership for Rhode Island and produced by the Boston Globe.
The creation of an integrated academic health system would bring together a merged Lifespan and Care New England, the state’s largest nonprofit health care providers, in a partnership with Brown and its Warren Alpert Medical School. The organizations’ leaders say the system would ensure excellence in health care from birth to end-of-life, offer a full array of complementary medical specialties, benefit Rhode Island’s economy, reduce health care disparities, and build on Brown’s leading research and medical education programs.
Event moderator Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, said that most people are familiar with the concept of two hospital systems coming together, but what is less clear to them is how Brown fits in
University President Christina H. Paxson said that Brown for decades has played a major role in improving the health of Rhode Islanders. With the state’s only medical and public health schools, Brown educates medical students, residents, fellows and health researchers who treat patients and contribute expertise to the local community. The medical school and School of Public Health are known for their collaborative approach with leaders across Rhode Island, enabling a more nimble and comprehensive response to crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. And the schools’ reputations attract health leaders from around the world.
“We recruit really talented physicians to Rhode Island — often people who simply would not come if they didn't have the opportunity to be professors at the medical school,” Paxson said.
She said that 60% of Rhode Island physicians have some affiliation with the Warren Alpert Medical School, and 48% of all physicians in the state hold faculty appointments. Many of those recruited remain in the state and contribute over the long-term. And the biomedical research happening at Brown, in which physician-scientists often have a role, makes a direct and positive impact in the care that patients receive at the doctor’s office.
“You have faculty physicians who are at the leading edge of studying things like Alzheimer's disease, like cancer, like population health, and they're bringing that knowledge into their practices,” Paxson said.
When Brown researchers work with hospitals to set up clinical trials around those discoveries, patients all over Southern New England have access to treatments they wouldn’t have had otherwise, she added.
While the University has long-standing relationships with both hospital systems, Paxson said a major challenge of the current bifurcated system is that the majority of medical school faculty have appointments with only Lifespan or Care New England, making it unnecessarily difficult for them to work together on clinical care as well as research.
In remarks during the event, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse expressed support for the integrated academic health system. He painted a picture of the negative implications likely to emerge should the merger, currently under regulatory review, and affiliation with Brown not proceed.