Nanticoke Health Services, of Seaford, and Peninsula Regional Health System, based in Salisbury, Maryland, announced Jan. 2 that the affiliation of the two health services passed final state and federal regulatory approval.

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, the Nanticoke Physician Network and all other Nanticoke healthcare services have joined the Peninsula Regional Health System. McCready Health of Crisfield, Maryland, is expected to merge later in 2020. The result is the creation of a new health system designed to enhance inpatient, outpatient and emergency care and wellness services across the entire Delmarva Peninsula.

“Healthcare systems are more frequently coming together to meet the challenges of an ever-evolving environment,” said Steve Leonard, president and CEO of the Peninsula Regional Health System. “We are proud to now have officially merged, and together as a new system we will be working throughout the region to better the health and wellness of Delmarva. We continue to look for partners on this journey and are excited about McCready joining soon and the opportunities to grow that will follow.”

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital and Peninsula Regional Medical Center, the hospitals themselves, will keep their names. A branding study is underway to develop a new name for the health system that will reflect the combined culture and service delivery promise of Peninsula Regional, Nanticoke and McCready. The new name will be revealed in late spring.

The new health system immediately expands access to care for residents across the region. It is expected services in Seaford will not only remain in place but also be enhanced, including additional technology and procedures, and possibly new locations for care.

While the two healthcare providers are legally one organization, it is still early in the collaborative process. A full strategic plan, with a goal to expand access to care and provide more services closer to where people live and work, is being drafted.

“We are excited for the next phase of the Nanticoke journey,” said Penny Short, president of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. “By partnering with Peninsula Regional Health System, Nanticoke will be able to continue providing the high-quality, compassionate care we are known for while expanding services for our community. Together with Peninsula, we are ensuring our community has access to the quality healthcare it deserves for years to come.”

A number of services and service lines, including oncology, cardiology and orthopedics, are being evaluated to determine where enhancements can be made to create a stronger system using what both organizations have to offer. There is also opportunity to grow population health programs to better manage patients across the continuum of care.

A combined network of family care and specialty physician offices will connect local healthcare providers in an even more meaningful way, allowing them to eventually share one electronic medical record. Patients benefit, as providers will be able to communicate more easily when consulting on care paths and plans The result will be smoother patient referrals to an increased number of specialty offices through comprehensive care coordination, which has proven to result in better patient outcomes.

“As a dedicated group of healthcare professionals serving the Delmarva Peninsula, we are thrilled to join with our colleagues at Nanticoke in becoming our own enterprise,” said Karin DiBari, vice president and chief physician executive, Peninsula Regional Medical Group. “This physician led, professionally managed, multi-specialty network of practices founded on teamwork and communication, will allow us to continue to attract and retain talented professionals to meet the needs of our community and thrive in this ever-changing healthcare environment.”

There are no immediate plans for staffing changes. Eventually, the new health system will incorporate nearly 5,000 employees, which affords multiple employment opportunities. Integration teams from all areas across both organizations have been working to become one healthcare system for a number of months, and that continues with teams drawing upon strengths from both organizations to develop a plan for the future.

“It will take a year or two to work through the integration process,” said Leonard. “Bringing together two robust organizations requires a tremendous amount of work on not only the coordination of patient care, but the back office services, too, like billing, credentialing and payroll,” Leonard said. “As we integrate processes and align protocols and policies, we are developing a new brand and merging two cultures. We are excited for the opportunities it will present to allow us to continue to provide better, more efficient and more effective care for our patients.”