Video & highlights from “Leadership Series: Gary Kaplan, MD, and Ketul Patel on the VM-CHI merger”

On Monday, Gary Kaplan, MD, Chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason Health System in Seattle, and Ketul Patel, CEO of CHI Franciscan, joined State of Reform for a conversation as part of our new “Leadership Series.” The two leaders discussed the recent news that Virginia Mason and CHI Franciscan have signed a Memorandum Of Understanding to explore forming a joint operating company after years of working in a strategic partnership.


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State of Reform President DJ Wilson kicked off the conversation by asking Patel and Kaplan how this potential merger came to be.

“The last few years,” said Patel in response, “really gave us an opportunity to get to learn from each other and get to learn from each other’s organizations. Because outside of one radiation oncology relationship, we just didn’t have a long-standing history, if you will, between the two organizations. I think we got to this place because we’ve had a lot of great people leading the way for us internally and establishing priorities for us, including our boards. As we got to know each other more, we definitely realized that we’re speaking the same language in a variety of different ways. It was always centered around the patient; it was always centered around quality; it’s always centered around patient experience. We are both learning organizations and we’ll continue to do so. That’s why we came together to make the announcement we did a few weeks ago.”

Kaplan also stressed the importance of finding a partner with the same values and outlined the organizations’ vision for the new health system.

“We came together with a partner that wanted, with us, to explore what we’ve long believed, and that is: the path to higher quality, safer, better patient experience care is also the same path to lower cost. So, here’s a coming together of two significant organizations in this market that can, I think, improve the quality of care available to the people in our region, provide more access points and ways to enter our combined system, and in so doing bend that cost curve and reduce the total cost of care,” said Kaplan.

One of the top questions posed by audience participants during the conversation was if VM will continue to provide female reproductive services and Death with Dignity care even though CHI Franciscan is a Catholic health care system.

Kaplan says he anticipates VM will continue to offer most of the services previously provided, but they likely will no longer do pregnancy terminations or Death with Dignity.

We cover Kaplan’s remarks on the subject in detail here.

CommonSpirit Health, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health systems, is the parent company of CHI Franciscan. During the conversation, Wilson asked Patel how the new joint operating company would fit into the broader CommonSpirit framework.

“We’re hoping that the structure that we’re going to create is going to take full advantage of what CommonSpirit brings for the local community moving forward,” said Patel.

“The power, in a good way, of being part of a national system can really help us deliver better care for our patients. That’s what it’s really all about. So, things like the purchasing opportunities [to get things] at the lowest price points in the market will allow us to lower the total cost of care. But also, things like the home health company or the hospital at home company that CommonSpirit has, they’re very exciting to many of us who think about, how does it actually work on the sharp end of care? We know that patients will increasingly be cared for in the home that previously were in our institutions and in our hospitals. There are lots of opportunities,” added Kaplan. “We will have an opportunity in this region, in many ways, to show a path forward and be an innovation hub, an incubator, what some might call a center of excellence or even a flagship for this national system. Those are opportunities. We have to earn those opportunities. Just as Virginia Mason has become a destination center of excellence for large Fortune 100 companies from around the United States, we hope to see that play out to an even greater extent on behalf of all the communities that CommonSpirit Health serves across the county.”

Patel and Kaplan’s full remarks are available in the video above.