Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has signed a clinical affiliation with MetroWest Medical Center, part of the Boston health care system's strategy to compete with rivals by expanding its network beyond the city.
The agreement, which the two hospital operators filed with the state's Health Policy Commission Thursday, will offer Beth Israel Deaconess access to a larger pool of patients, including the potential for more referrals to its Longwood campus. Beth Israel Deaconess is also seeking to add Metro-West to its accountable care organization, a network of doctors and hospitals that contracts with insurance companies. That plan is already under review by the Health Policy Commission, which monitors health care spending.
"This will allow us to provide more care to more patients in a variety of different places," said Dr. Kevin Tabb, chief executive of Beth Israel Deaconess.
MetroWest Medical Center's decision to partner with Beth Israel Deaconess means it will end most of its affiliation with Tufts Medical Center. It will keep Tufts for pediatric services, but switch to Beth Israel Deaconess for other specialties.
About one-third of the doctors at MetroWest also will maintain their Tufts affiliation, Tufts spokeswoman Julie Jette said.
"We are proud of the work we have done over the years to elevate patient care in the Framingham area and to strengthen MetroWest Medical Center," she said.
MetroWest, which operates hospitals in Framingham and Natick, said the affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess will give its patients access to more specialty medical services. Specialists from Beth Israel Deaconess will treat patients at MetroWest and offer guidance to MetroWest doctors, said Barbara Doyle, MetroWest's chief executive. For example, the affiliation will give local patients access to Beth Israel Deaconess cancer specialists.
"We believe Beth Israel Deaconess will help us to expand our offerings to the MetroWest community," she said. MetroWest plans to market the affiliation with new signs at its hospitals.
Beth Israel Deaconess's affiliation agreement with MetroWest comes after the hospital system has acquired or affiliated with hospitals from Newburyport to Plymouth as it seeks to compete with the state's largest health system, Partners HealthCare of Boston, and other hospital operators. Tabb said he continues to seek new partnerships.
"We certainly have grown geographically over the last four years," he said. "I don't think we're finished with that."
MetroWest Medical Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center negotiated for more than a year before unveiling their agreement Thursday. In addition to the clinical affiliation, MetroWest has also agreed to be part of the Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization, or BIDCO, which contracts with insurers on behalf of its member doctors groups and hospitals.
The Health Policy Commission is studying whether such a deal could raise costs for consumers and strengthen BIDCO's market power.
The BIDCO network already includes seven hospitals and 2,400 doctors, and is the second-largest health care provider network in Massachusetts, with 11 percent of hospital discharges, according to the commission.