Every day we read about health care changes and challenges. Community-based hospitals face an ever-changing economic landscape, confronting increased needs of an aging population while assuring access to affordable care. Bold leadership is required to tackle these challenges, with a keen eye to local concerns. Our patients deserve solutions that begin with providers and organizations collaborating to better identify and address their needs. We recognize our important role as local stewards with profound obligations to ensure the best health care possible for our patients tomorrow and for generations to come.

It is with these and other considerations in mind that the organizations that we are honored to lead — Elliot Health System and Southern New Hampshire Health (SNHH) — announced the signing of a letter of intent to explore a combination through which we would develop a highly coordinated community-based regional health care network. Our goal is to enhance the ability of both Elliot and SNHH to continue carrying out their respective historic charitable missions in a rapidly changing health care industry. In taking this step, we believe we can improve access, and enhance the quality and value of health care in the communities we have each served for more than 125 years, and throughout southern New Hampshire.

Since announcing the letter of intent, a few key questions have been asked that we would like to answer.

Why Elliot and SNHH? In arriving at this decision, our respective leadership teams carefully considered a number of factors, beginning with the values and vision that we share. Other factors include our shared desire to improve access to quality care; integration sufficient to enable collaboration of care and sharing of best practices; the opportunity to implement state-of-the-art health care information technology; the ability to collaboratively develop and maintain medical and surgical services; the opportunity to improve local access to specialty services; and our commitment to creating long-term organizational stability for our community-based hospitals.

Why combine? We are both acutely aware of the challenging and dynamic pressures of the economics of health care, which are significantly compounded here in New Hampshire by our rapidly aging patient population. With the third highest per capita rate of baby boomers in the nation, New Hampshire’s capacity must evolve and expand to be able to provide timely access to the spectrum of clinical specialties and sub-specialties in a convenient and cost-effective manner. We also are dealing daily with the opioid crisis and significant behavioral health challenges. We believe a regional care system would allow us to more efficiently collaborate on clinical care, expertise, and technologies, provide greater local care options for the thousands of Granite Staters currently traveling long distances (even out of state) for treatment, and over time grow to meet our communities’ needs in ways that assure access, high quality care, and value.

What is the process? The letter of intent we have signed is a nonbinding commitment between our two organizations to conduct careful due diligence and negotiate a final binding agreement that would formally join Elliot and SNHH in an integrated regional health care system for New Hampshire. Our respective boards of trustees must approve any final agreement, which would also be subject to review and approval by various government authorities, including the New Hampshire attorney general.

The public’s input is essential to this process. We want to hear from you, to answer your questions, and solicit your thoughts about the proposed combination, and even get your ideas for a name for the regional system we are proposing. We have created a website, www.SolutionHealth.org, where information and updates will be posted regularly, and which includes a “Your Voice” section that allows you to share your thoughts and ideas with us. We are also hosting public listening sessions on July 26 in Manchester and Aug. 9 in Nashua, where our leadership teams will share additional information, and answer questions. Our pledge is to provide you, as well as our employees, patients and providers, with as much up-to-the minute information as possible, so you can learn more while providing important feedback.

For more than 125 years, both Elliot and SNHH have proudly served southern New Hampshire by providing exceptional healthcare to our valued patients. Through this proposed combination, we plan to continue doing so, together and better than ever, well into the 21st century and beyond. We are truly excited by this opportunity to create a New Hampshire solution for the communities we are honored to serve.

Doug Dean is president and CEO of Elliot Health System. Mike Rose is president and CEO of Southern New Hampshire Health.