Dignity Health CFO Dan Morissette discusses CHI megamerger, Apple partnership

It has been a big year for Dignity Health, as the health system finalized a merger agreement with Catholic Health Initiatives and entered into other interesting partnerships.

San Francisco-based Dignity Health, one of the largest health systems in the nation, agreed to merge with Englewood, Colo.-based CHI in late 2017, and the deal is set to close by the end of this year. Last month, Dignity and CHI unveiled the name for the $28.4 billion system their merger will create: CommonSpirit Health.

Dignity Senior Executive Vice President and CFO Daniel Morissette, who will serve as CFO of CommonSpirit, recently discussed the merger with Becker's Hospital Review. He said that after the transaction with CHI closes, one of his top priorities for next year is to help the combined system complete its strategic initiatives and maintain a stable financial position.

"We have $5 billion in debt, and CHI has about $9 billion in debt. We take very seriously the fact that not only are we going to need more access to capital in the future, but to make sure we're running a financially stable operation," he said.

In addition to moving forward with the CHI merger, Dignity saw its financial position improve this year and became one of the first health systems in the nation to pilot Apple's medical records system.

"The partnership [with Apple] came about, in part, because we're very engaged in the tech community and we're located in the Silicon Valley in San Francisco," Mr. Morissette said. "We had always had relationships with Apple, and when the opportunity came, we were so excited to be one of the first systems — the first cohort of systems to join with Apple."

Mr. Morissette said the most appealing part about introducing Apple's health records feature is how it benefits patients.

"The reason we were interested in it, primarily, is because it empowers patients to have more control or more information about their own life. Now, people can access their own health records on their iPhone. That part, we're really excited about," he said.

When it comes to Apple, Google and other technology companies pushing more into healthcare, Mr. Morissette thinks healthcare providers need to be more flexible.

"This is a very traditional business. In fact, if you looked in an old dictionary at traditional business, you'd probably see a picture of most of the health systems there," he said. "One of the good things about working with Apple … and smaller startup companies … is there's no walls. They just say, 'Hey, what about this? What if we try this?' Some of the things we can't do because of patient safety or other reasons, but a lot of it, we're like, 'Okay, let's try it.' I think in that sense, it's something we really need to embrace because they have figured out how to make consumers generally happy otherwise."

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