Academic Health and Hospital Operator Partnerships: Q&A With Dr. Bill Fulkerson and Bill Carpenter

June 22, 2011

Durham, N.C.-based Duke University Health System and Brentwood, Tenn.-based LifePoint Hospitals announced the formation of a joint venture in Jan. 2011. The partnership, Duke LifePoint Healthcare, is designed to strengthen healthcare in the region by providing affiliation options for community hospitals. Since its formation, the joint venture has made strides in North Carolina’s healthcare market, with two pending hospital deals – Maria Parham Medical Center in Henderson, N.C., and Person Memorial Hospital in Roxboro, N.C. – and the acquisition of nine cardiac catheterization labs from Charlotte, N.C.-based MedCath.

Bill Fulkerson, MD, executive vice president of Duke University Health System, and Bill Carpenter, Chairman and CEO of LifePoint Hospitals, say this partnership has a unique synergy and makes tremendous sense. Dr. Fulkerson and Mr. Carpenter spoke to Becker’s Hospital Review about how they found one another as partners, their shared vision for community hospitals and what they believe makes a successful joint venture.

Q: Can you provide some background on this joint venture? How did Duke and LifePoint find one another?

Dr. Fulkerson: We have worked with LifePoint for three or four years. They invited us to come in and strengthen the cardiovascular program at Danville (Va.) Regional Medical Center, which is about 50 miles from Durham and has traditionally been a referral community for Duke. I think over that period of time, we really learned about LifePoint’s tremendous commitment to quality, safety and outcomes. This partnership grew out of the affiliation we had in Danville and the positive outcomes that occurred there. There is a fairly unique synergy between LifePoint’s management skill and our ability to work with them in clinical program enhancement.

Mr. Carpenter: Many hospitals in smaller communities are struggling and trying to survive and remain relevant in their communities. These hospitals are such viable parts of their communities, and many of them have sought Duke for advice because of the reputation Duke has in the region, and even beyond the region. Our affiliation in Danville let us get to know each other. So, as community hospitals are trying to figure out alternatives and because of the successful affiliation we had in Danville, Duke and LifePoint developed this joint venture.

Q: What do you think each organization brings to the venture that would be difficult to achieve independently?

Dr. Bill Fulkerson: We feel there is real synergy around LifePoint’s strengths and our strengths. LifePoint’s commitment to quality and safety is second to none. Together, we can help community hospitals develop stronger programs than they have historically ever had.

Mr. Bill Carpenter: LifePoint owns and operates 52 hospitals in smaller communities, and we provide a full range of management, financial and operational resources. We provide access to capital so hospitals can invest in new technology. These are the things that are important in small communities that let people feel good about staying closer to home for care. Duke, though, offers hospitals a level of clinical oversight and guidance that is unmatched. It also offers access to highly specialized medical services that simply won’t ever be provided in a community hospital.

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