DANVILLE - AtlantiCare health system, Atlantic City, N.J., and Geisinger Health System announced Tuesday the signing of a definitive agreement for AtlantiCare to become a member of Geisinger Health System.

AtlantiCare and Geisinger signed a letter of intent in November, and since that time have been completing due diligence and exploring ways the organizations can work together to benefit patients and the community, according to a press release from the organizations Tuesday. The proposed integration now moves into the regulatory approval phase, which is expected to take nine to 12 months.

"Geisinger is a national model for innovation and value that is on the leading edge of transforming health care, and we are pleased and excited to enter into this definitive agreement," AtlantiCare president and chief executive officer David P. Tilton was quoted. "We remain focused on the health and well-being of our community, and we look forward to further advances in population health and other innovations to improve quality and enhance services for our patients."

"It is an especially challenging time in health care; however, we stand at the brink of making significant enhancements that will benefit patients for generations to come," said Geisinger Health System president and chief executive officer Glenn Steele Jr. "Today's announcement is good news for the people we serve, and we look forward to making a positive difference in southern New Jersey."

The AtlantiCare and Geisinger Health System relationship is built on the understanding that the health care delivery system in the United States is changing to a value-based model. As a result, the emphasis is on implementation of evidence-based medicine programs, enhancing capabilities and clinical services, optimizing the use of the electronic health record and clinical informatics, and implementing population health management and value-based payment models.

Representatives from each organization will sit on the AtlantiCare and Geisinger Health System Foundation boards of directors. AtlantiCare and Geisinger share a number of awards and recognitions, including Modern Healthcare's "Best Places to Work in Healthcare" and the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Magnet designation.

AtlantiCare was also named a recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2009.