Forging partnerships is essential in today’s health care environment, even for the largest, most prestigious institutions in the field.

That fact was on full display recently, with the announcement of a strategic collaboration between two industry giants. Medical research and education leader Johns Hopkins Medicine is banding together with a top integrated health system and insurer, Kaiser Permanente. The two stalwarts plan to share their electronic health records, along with best practices and their collective know-how in managing the health of populations.

The health systems already had been partners of a different kind for the past 15 years, with physicians from the Mid-Atlantic regional arm of Kaiser working out of Johns Hopkins’ Suburban Hospital and also collaborating with clinicians there. The partnership started to ramp up in recent years, as the two looked to integrate Kaiser’s physicians, systems and processes into the Bethesda, Md., community hospital.

“There’s a growing recognition over the last couple of years that it is really important that like-minded organizations begin to work together to improve quality and affordability,” says Kim Horn, president of Kaiser’s Mid-Atlantic states. “We find Johns Hopkins, specifically, to be the perfect kind of partner in that we’re similar in terms of our commitment to the region and mission-based nature, but we are also very complementary in terms of our strengths.”

For Hopkins and its six academic and community hospitals, those strengths include strong knowledge in research and academics. Kaiser, meanwhile — which has 510,000 health plan members and 29 medical centers in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. — brings troves of data, an expertise in population health and experience implementing an EHR from the same vendor that Hopkins uses.

Kaiser has little interest in entering an “arms race of over-duplicating services that are readily available throughout the region,” Horn says. Instead, Kaiser intends to use Johns Hopkins’ facility to provide the same level of service that its health plan members would experience in any other Kaiser facility.

Eventually, Horn says, the two health systems would like to collaborate on much more research, and possibly open an institute focused on population health. Also in the cards are the development of educational programs and collaboration between Kaiser and Johns Hopkins’ Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality.

Brian Gragnolati, senior vice president of Johns Hopkins Health System, says he’s fascinated by the possibilities, and he has already received several unsolicited calls from faculty with ideas about how to work with Kaiser in the research realm.

The partnership also strengthens Kaiser’s efforts to provide care outside of hospitals. The two will work together to more quickly innovate in technology for home care.

Fran Turisco, a researcher and director with consulting firm Aspen Advisors, believes the two sides have all the “high-powered pieces” in place to transform care at a rapid pace.

“What organizations have found out is that no one has the corner on the market and each brings something unique to the table,” she says. “It’s not that organizations can’t do it by themselves, but they can do it better and faster when they collaborate, because there are different demographics, different data sources and different research techniques that they can try. It’s a way to speed up the process from bench to bedside.”