“What I have heard is that nothing is off the table,” UW spokeswoman Lisa Brunette said when asked to provide details on the discussions announced Wednesday in a brief news release. There are many possibilities that do “not involve merging assets, and that's likely where the conversation is going to start,” she said.
Other avenues they might explore include population health initiatives and integrating use of their electronic health records systems, Aurora Health spokesman Mike Brophy said.
“They have a number of best practices and strengths that we probably don't have and they would admit the same,” Brophy said. “So any time that you can expand your knowledge, your practices and what you're doing, we think that would be beneficial for us and beneficial for our patient care.”
Based in Milwaukee, Aurora is the largest healthcare system in Wisconsin with 15 hospitals, 172 clinic sites and more than 70 pharmacies throughout 31 counties. For 2012, the system reported revenue of $4.1 billion and an operating margin of $138 million.
Madison-based UW Health includes the 504-bed University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The hospital and clinics reported revenue of $1.2 billion for its fiscal 2012, ended June 30, with an operating margin of $127 million.
Both organizations (Aurora through its Lake Shore Medical Clinic) are participating in Medicare's shared-savings program for ACOs, and Aurora has ACO contracts with Aetna and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
The two organizations have had a 30-year academic relationship. UW medical students have worked within Aurora facilities since the 1980s. Brunette said that relationship was a big part of the decision to explore other ways in which the two systems could collaborate.
Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHSjohnson