Beth Israel Deaconess and Lahey Clinic in talks about potential alliance

The presidents of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Clinic told employees and affiliates Wednesday they are in preliminary talks with each other and three doctors groups about an alliance that could rival Partners HealthCare in scale and reach.

In an e-mail to vice presidents, physicians, and managers that was obtained by the Globe, Beth Israel Deaconess president Kevin Tabb said the hospital is “exploring new possibilities to benefit our patients and the communities we serve.”

In a similarly worded letter, Lahey chief executive Howard Grant told colleagues, “Our organizations share the same vision of providing outstanding care in the right place at the right time.”

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Besides Beth Israel and Lahey, the parties involved in the talks include the Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at BIDMC group, the Lahey Clinic Physicians Group, and Atrius Health, a consortium of community doctors groups that refer patients to Beth Israel and Lahey, according to the letters.

Lahey, based in Burlington, and Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess are both respected teaching hospitals led by relatively new presidents who come from outside Massachusetts. Lahey’s Grant, who arrived in late 2010, initiated a round of discussions with Beth Israel Deaconess in 2011 before it hired Tabb to replace departing chief executive Paul Levy. Those talks did not result in a deal for the two hospitals to form some kind of alliance.

Since then, Lahey has merged with Northeast Health Systems, owner of Beverly Hospital, and talked with Tufts Medical Center in Boston about a potential affiliation, according to people familiar with those discussions. Lahey and Tufts, both affiliated with the Tufts School of Medicine, thus far have failed to come to an agreement.

Tabb, who took the helm at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess in late 2011, has been involved in the current round of talks with Lahey. Since arriving, Tabb has been aggressively building up his organization’s network. In January, it signed a letter of intent to acquire Jordan Health Systems Inc., the parent of Jordan Hospital in Plymouth.

If the Jordan deal goes through, it would further fill out the Beth Israel Deaconess network, which includes hospitals in Needham and Milton, and its own physicians group, as well as Newton-based Atrius, which operates Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and other doctors groups.

Beth Israel Deaconess also has a clinical affiliation with Hebrew SeniorLife and is negotiating affiliations with Cambridge Health Alliance and Signature Healthcare in Brockton, which operates the 253-bed Brockton Hospital.

Beth Israel Deaconess created a new organizational structure in January that will make it easier for the hospital to bring in more fully-owned and affiliated health care providers.

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