University of Oklahoma and Hospital Partner Announce Merger Intent to Create New Health System

Healthcare in Oklahoma will take a giant leap forward as the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine faculty practice, University Hospitals Authority and Trust (parent organization of OU Medicine) and OU Medicine, Inc. (hospital partner) announce the intent to merge their hospitals and clinics into one unified organization, creating Oklahoma’s first truly integrated, comprehensive academic health system.

“Bringing the strength of these equally powerful healthcare organizations into one structure with a singular CEO and one team will give Oklahoma the health system we need to improve our statewide health outcomes,” said OU President Joseph Harroz, Jr. “This merger positions us to flourish and sets the stage for OU Health to be among the top tier of academic health systems across the country. The unification and structural change fully unleashes the talent and collaboration across our faculty practice, clinics and hospitals in order to deliver the best healthcare for Oklahoma.”

The merged organization will create a seamless experience for patients between clinics and hospitals, improve overall quality of care, bring research breakthroughs into care plans and improve Oklahoma’s ability to attract and retain the brightest minds across the national healthcare landscape. As a result of the merger, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, through its new affiliation agreement with OU Health, is poised to dramatically increase its healthcare research activity and better meet the growing demand for educating and training more healthcare professionals in Oklahoma.

The merger is a natural evolution in a century-long relationship between the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and its hospital partner. University Hospitals Authority and Trust (UHAT) is the parent organization of OU Medicine, Inc.

“In 2018 UHAT brought these Oklahoma hospital assets under local management and into a mutual affiliation agreement with OU,” said G. Rainey Williams, Jr., Board Chair of University Hospitals Authority and Trust. “We quickly began plans to build success based upon our tightly woven relationship with the University of Oklahoma. OU and UHAT share a common commitment for the new OU Health to be a top-tier academic health care system marked by high-quality patient care, world-class training and innovative research. Merging the hospitals and clinics into a unified health system allows us to accelerate the achievement of these missions.”

As part of the merger, the OU College of Medicine faculty practice will create a new clinic practice to deliver clinical care within OU Health facilities, while continuing education and research activity within OU. This new clinic practice will formally merge with the hospital partner, a merger of equals, in order to unify the academic health system. The OU Health Board of Directors will be the single governing board of the health system and will consist of OU officers, UHAT Board Members and community leaders.

“This merger has long been envisioned for Oklahoma by both our hospital and clinic leadership,” said Jason Sanders, MD, MBA, Acting Board Chair of OU Medicine, Inc. “We know that this is a giant leap forward for healthcare in our state. Oklahomans will receive the ultimate benefit of this merger by having increased access -- to the latest treatment therapies, to leading physicians, and to seamless patient care.”

A national search has commenced for the new OU Health CEO and is expected to complete in mid-2021.

A non-binding letter of intent (LOI) is in place between the organizations, and definitive agreements are expected to be reached in the coming months. The definitive agreements are subject to approval by the OU Board of Regents, UHAT Board of Directors, and OU Medicine, Inc. Board of Directors.

“Today is the dawn of a new era for healthcare in Oklahoma,” said Harroz. “It is an era where our researchers, physicians and team members merge together in order to bring Oklahoma’s healthcare to new heights. The healthiest states all have integrated academic health systems and the time is now for Oklahoma to have ours.”