Atrium Health President and CEO Eugene “Gene” A. Woods.

Atrium Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest University announced plans to merge on Wednesday in an effort to “create a next-generation academic healthcare system” that would include long-term care facilities and research in Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related areas.

“By signing a memorandum of understanding, the organizations have agreed to start a period of exclusive negotiations, with the goal of entering into a final agreement later this year,” the entities said in a press release. Atrium Health formerly was known as the Carolinas HealthCare System.

It’s too soon to know exactly how the nursing homes, home healthcare and hospice and palliative care offerings in Atrium Health’s care continuum will be affected by the plans, a spokeswoman for Atrium Health told McKnight’s Senior Living.

“The signing of the memorandum of understanding signals the very beginning of in-depth discussions regarding the specific details of what our coming together could ultimately become,” she said. “We look forward to the discussions and to ultimately reaching an agreement that benefits North Carolina and all of the communities our organizations are privileged to serve.”

The Atrium system’s network includes more than 40 hospitals and 900 care locations, many of them providing care for older adults. Wake Forest School of Medicine and Wake Forest Baptist Health “are national leaders in studying how to help people age better, and with a much higher quality of life,” Atrium Health President and CEO Eugene “Gene” Woods, MBA, MHA, FACHE, said in a statement.

“Last year at Atrium Health, we cared for more than 350,000 patients over the age of 65, and by 2035, one in five U.S. residents will be over that age,” he said. “Just imagine the powerful possibilities to advance modern medicine by linking breakthrough science directly with our patients in a way that significantly enhances their cognitive and physical functioning — and allows them to live independently for longer. This is just one of the unlimited opportunities we see ahead.”

Wake Forest Baptist Health has skilled nursing partners and offers Care at Home, a joint program with Gentiva Health Services. The health system’s programs in gerontology and geriatric medicine include the J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging and Rehabilitation and its J. Paul Sticht Center on Healthy Aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention, which combines the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center and the Kulynych Center for Memory and Cognition Research.

Additionally, the Wake Forest Baptist Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center is among 31 National Institutes of Health-funded research centers in the country.

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