CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolinas Healthcare System and UNC Health Care announced Thursday that the two health care providers will partner together to create one of the leading non-profit health care systems in the nation.

CHS and UNC Health Care have signed a letter of intent to join their clinical, medical education and research resources as part of the partnership, according to a press release. The two organizations have agreed to start a period of exclusive negotiations with a goal of entering into final agreements by the end of the year.

According to Carolinas Healthcare System, the two will focus on four strategic areas: increasing access and affordability, advancing clinical care expertise, growing their renowned academic enterprise, and contributing to the region's economic vibrancy.

"Together with UNC Health Care, we believe that the opportunities to be a national model and to elevate health in North Carolina are nearly limitless," said Gene Woods, current president and CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System, and future CEO of the new entity. “For example, since our organizations already serve almost 50 percent of all patients who visit rural hospitals in our state, we are perfectly positioned to participate in the reinvention of rural healthcare in partnership with others. Ensuring there is great healthcare in rural counties is not only important to our patients’ physical wellbeing, but is also vital to the economic wellbeing of those communities as well. At the same time, we are also inspired by what our two organizations will be able to do together to transform cancer treatment. At Levine Cancer Institute, we care for over 10,000 new patients every year, and over 1,000 participate in clinical trials through a ‘care-close-to-home’ model in more than 25 locations throughout the Carolinas. Combined with UNC Health Care’s National Cancer Institute designation, with more than $70 million in joint cancer research grants for clinical trials, we will create a cancer network that is second to none in the country. In short, this partnership is an example of one of those truly ‘big ideas’ that this state is known for."