"We're simply sitting down and discussing joint-venture relationships that will benefit all the communities we serve," said Norman B. Epstein, president and chief executive officer of Summit Health. "There are no preconceived ideas on the table."
The chief executive officer, a physician leader and a community board member from Summit Health, Gettysburg Hospital, Hanover HealthCare Plus, and York Health System, will make up the panel that will begin meeting regularly by the end of the summer to review the potential benefits of an affiliation, Epstein said.
It could be a year or more before a decision is reached.
The meetings will include ongoing discussions with health care oganizations in Maryland to provide local health services to people who now have to cross the state line.
An affiliation could create "an advantage for local employers in Maryland and Pennsylvania who are now disadvantaged by the limitations of managed care," Epstein said.
The neighboring health care systems, serving Franklin, Adams and York counties, already work together in some aspects, Epstein added.
For years, Chambersburg doctors have traveled to other hospitals as part of the emergency medical residency program, he said.
The organizations often come together to provide community health education and awareness programs, clinical services, support services such as information systems and laundry services, and sharing equipment.
"It may be nothing. We may find it doesn't make any sense" to become affiliated, Epstein said. "But we want to see if there is an advantage."
Affiliation negotiations have been part of an industry-wide trend, especially in the metropolitan areas, due in part to the growth in managed care and reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, Epstein said.
"It's an epidemic ... . Everyone is partnering with everyone," he said.