Two Texas health systems are joining forces in the Lone Star State, adding to the growing number of their peers doing the same to tackle health care's new normal.

The latest in a long list of such partnerships is Texas Health Resources, which announced Friday plans to partner with one of its competitors, UT Southwestern Medical Center. Together, the new network, called Southwestern Health Resources, will comprise 27 hospitals and an "expansive" network of about 3,000 physicians across northern Texas. All told, the new supersystem will serve 16 north Texas counties and 7 million residents.

Daniel Podolsky, M.D., president of UT Southwestern, says the move came amid other such consolidation in Texas and across the nation, such as the formation of Baylor Scott & White Health, along with the growing demand from patients to provide the whole gamut of health care services in a coordinated, affordable fashion.

"We see the landscape of health care delivery and the expectations of stakeholders evolving in important and significant ways," he says. "Those expectations include the ability to provide the full continuum of care, as well as delivering greater value in terms of efficiency, safety and quality of outcomes. To a degree, therefore, you need a breadth of competencies, but also scale, as payment models increasingly move toward putting the risk on the provider."

Podolsky stresses that the new health system is not a merger, as the two organizations are not exchanging assets. Rather, they're integrating clinical care, along with "key components of our collective financial activities." Both are on the same EHR system, making the melding of patient records relatively painless, he adds.

UT Southwestern and Texas Health Resources join a slew of other health systems around the country that are banding together to save dollars, improve access and coordination, and tackle population health. Those have popped up everywhere from Georgia to Iowa and back east in New Hampshire, to name a few. Podolsky says hospital leaders increasingly are seeing the need to partner with others to deliver the whole continuum of care while also achieving efficiencies and taking on greater risk.

"I think these are evolutionary forces that are driving the shape by which you will be able to meet those challenges and, in our instance, we're convinced we will not just meet them, but thrive," he says.

In another such collaboration, Providence and Swedish affiliated in the Seattle region back in 2012. A few years later, the two are now working together directly with such employers as Boeing, to provide care in an employer-sponsored ACO. Podolsky says he "absolutely" sees Southwestern Health Resources pursuing similar arrangements with purchasers.

He's also excited to see how the two can work together to further their academic missions. On the docket, they plan to offer more clinical trials to patients, and THR has already made "significant commitments" to fund several other opportunities, including establishing a new center for population health research, which they hope will "really make our health systems a laboratory for how you drive improvement," Podolsky adds.