CEO Dr. David Torchiana's abrupt exit leaves Partners at crossroads

David Torchiana's, MD, decision to step down from his role as president and CEO at Partners HealthCare has forced the Boston-based health system to re-evaluate how to continue integrating its flagship hospitals, The Boston Globe reports.

Four things to know:

1. Partners' Boston-based flagship institutions — Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital — have had a complicated relationship since merging roughly 25 years ago. While a potential breakup of the system is unlikely, the health system's board will face a range of crucial decisions about the future of the organization.

"The board needs to decide whether their articulated vision of an integrated system is what they want the new leader to pursue, or whether the development of parallel strong institutions which compete with each other is what they want a leader to pursue, because it is that tension that I think has made it such a difficult job," James Roosevelt Jr., a healthcare lawyer and former CEO of Watertown, Mass.-based Tufts Health Plan, told The Boston Globe.

2. After Dr. Torchiana announced last week that he would retire in April, The Boston Globe spoke with 20 current and former Partners executives and others with knowledge of the organization. Sources said that since merging, the system's flagship hospitals work together on certain physician training programs and research projects, but also pursue different growth strategies and continue to offer competing clinical services.

"The pushback in 1994 is not much different than the pushback in 2019. These places are very successful on their own, and change proves to be difficult," Ellen Zane, a former CEO of Boston-based Tufts Medical Center who also previously served as president of Partners' physician network, told the publication.

3. While Partners executives acknowledged to The Boston Globe that the hospitals have maintained their own leadership teams and department heads, they said the relationship between the two organizations has never been better, and the hospitals' respective leaders collaborate well together.

"The historical tensions between the Brigham and MGH, two of the world's greatest clinical operations, is something people have chattered about for a couple decades. But it's dramatically better over the last four or five years. The number of cooperative programs has increased dramatically," Scott Sperling, chairman of Partners' board, told the publication.

4. Dr. Torchiana was largely responsible for the push to think more strategically about the hospitals' relationship and about the future of the health system as a whole. He assembled a task force to examine the system's governance structure, brand, capital priorities and other issues, the report states. It is unclear if the system's new chief executive will maintain a similar vision.

To access the full report, click here.

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