LITTLE ROCK — The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and St. Vincent Health System said Wednesday they are exploring ways to combine their efforts to better serve patients.

Any affiliation pursued would preserve UAMS’ public identify and St. Vincent’s Catholic identify, including women’s and reproductive health care service, the two Little Rock-based hospitals said in a joint news release.

"With federal and state health care reforms moving forward, we believe there are tremendous opportunities to collaboratively improve the quality of care, reduce the cost of care and expand access to care while preserving the history and heritage of our health systems," they said.

The release said more details would be forthcoming Thursday.

UAMS is Arkansas’ only teaching hospital, with outreach programs operating in every county and a regional campus in Northwest Arkansas. In additional to the hospital and clinics, UAMS has a medical school, five colleges and a graduate school, as well as eight Area Health Education Centers across the state.

St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center in Little Rock is the state’s oldest continuously operating hospital. St. Vincent Health System also operates hospitals and clinics in North Little Rock, Sherwood, Lonoke and Scott.