Last week, 23 hospitals and post-acute providers in central and south Georgia joined together to form Stratus Healthcare, an alliance of independent health organizations committed to managing the region’s patient population. According to the group’s website, Stratus Healthcare members will work together in a formalized partnership to exchange best practices, combine resources, develop coordinated information systems, reduce costs and manage the health of populations. It is a non-equity partnership, meaning the members maintain their autonomy while reaping the benefits of the shared services model. The announcement marks the latest in a series of such alliances. In Pennsylvania, Abington Health, Aria Health, and Einstein Healthcare Network, formed a non-ownership limited-liability corporation also to focus on population health management. Last fall, four organizations in Illinois and Missouri formed a loose confederation of autonomous health systems with similar goals to Stratus. The trend of joining forces is seen by many as a way for independent hospitals, healthcare facilities, and providers to compete in a market that is teaming with large healthcare organizations without sacrificing sovereignty and sorting out the details of a merger or acquisition. Still other experts, like healthcare economist Adam Powell, see alliances like Stratus Healthcare as the first step towards a formal merger. Powell told HealthLeaders Media: “Although [Stratus] has been formed as an alliance, the press release announcing its creation mentions that it intends to eventually transform into an LLC. I see this as a merger in the making that may have been announced early for strategic reasons. Given the number of organizations involved, it may have been easiest to accomplish this in stages.” In any event, small hospitals are beginning to realize that the only way they can operate in the changing healthcare environment is to join together. The value-based purchasing model is going to require hospitals and healthcare organizations to manage patients’ overall wellbeing, not just treat a condition. As providers begin to join together, their staffing needs and challenges with undoubtedly change. Barton Associates is prepared to help healthcare organizations at the enterprise level and provide long- and short-term staffing support across multiple specialties. Learn more about how Barton supports hospitals, medical practices, and companies across the U.S.