US-based health systems Jefferson Health and Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) have agreed to merge their operations into an expanded integrated academic healthcare delivery system.

The merger aims to enhance access to clinical research, affordable care and health plans while addressing health inequities for urban and rural populations across Eastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey.

The deal is scheduled to close later this year subject to the fulfilment of final reviews and other closing conditions.

The announcement comes after the two health systems signed a letter of intent for the consolidation in December 2023.

The unified entity would create a national research university and an expanded not-for-profit health plan, operating 30 hospitals and more than 700 care sites.

Its workforce would exceed 65,000 and include clinicians, faculty and other staff members.

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Following the merger, Jefferson CEO Joseph G Cacchione will continue to lead the Jefferson enterprise.

Cacchione said: “We are delighted to take this next step toward combining with Lehigh Valley Health Network—it is the future, not only for our organisations but also for care in our region.

“This combination promotes access, choice, innovation, opportunity, increased equity and stability—for patients, physicians, faculty, staff, students and health plan members and our communities at large.” 

LVHN president and CEO Dr Brian Nester will assume the role of Jefferson’s executive vice-president/chief operating officer and president of the legacy LVHN.

Both entities will continue to operate independently until the merger has closed.

Nester said: “As our collective teams worked these past months, we confirmed what we had believed to be true when we signed our initial letter of intent—Jefferson is the ideal partner for LVHN, our teams and our patients.

“We look forward to continuing the important work of improving the health and well-being of our communities together.”