A slew of health systems are banding together in different markets, with the goals of improving population health management, bolstering quality and reducing costs.

Alliances have been formed in recent months by a group of seven health systems in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, by three systems in the Philadelphia area and by a group of health systems and hospitals in Georgia.

As the industry moves toward reimbursement for value instead of by procedure, hospital and health system executives hope to improve care and reduce costs by working together.

"This is the model that we felt best positioned us for the advent of population health management," says Kathleen Kinslow, president and CEO of three-hospital Aria Health, based in Philadelphia, which is forming a clinical improvement corporation with Abington Health and Einstein Healthcare Network.

The effort initially will include just the employees of the three, but eventually could expand to the community and add an insurance company.

"We want to start first with our own employees, gain the expertise and knowledge by working with the data and the physicians who are key in this process, and expand that as we gain greater expertise," she says.

Similarly, the systems in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that formed AllSpire Health Partners will use their own employees as a laboratory for new best care practices they identify.

Three areas in which AllSpire already has explored as priorities are: population health management, best practices for clinical programs and improving economies of scale, such as through group purchasing, says Ronald Swinfard, M.D., who is president and CEO of AllSpire Health Partners' member Lehigh Valley Health Network. Swinfard, who also is an AllSpire board member, says the organization's board will be charged with setting the actual agenda for AllSpire in coming months.

The Georgia alliance is going by the name Stratus Healthcare and its 23 hospitals will focus on population health management, exchanging best practices, combining resources, coordinating information systems and reducing costs.

The alliances will create a new type of operating environment for the participating hospitals and health systems. Holding onto their independence in a competitive market and managing the complex culture of such a collaboration will be challenging, but it is a logical move, says David Nash, M.D., dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health in Philadelphia.

"They're still going to have to do the blocking and tackling of employee engagement, and if they can do it together and save some duplicative costs, great," Nash notes. "All provider organizations should start with their own employees to practice population-based care. If we can't do it for our own people, we have very little business telling others how to do it."