Mercy is exploring a partnership with Orthopaedic Specialists of the Four States, Premier Surgical Institute and Stateline Surgery Center, all located in Galena, Kansas, with the goal of bringing them under the Mercy umbrella, the hospital system announced Wednesday.

The four health care centers have "a long history" of working together to address the health care needs of the Joplin area, Mercy officials said in making the announcement.

"Coming together is a logical next step to strengthen the future of health care across our region, enabling greater coordination of care and access to a broader network of services for patients as well as expanded professional opportunities for co-workers," Mercy said in a statement. "We are encouraged by our early discussions and believe this is positive and exciting news for our patients and the community as a whole, as well as for providers and co-workers across all of the involved entities."

The four providers are "entering into a period of due diligence" through a nonbinding letter of intent as they work toward a final agreement. Mercy said its goal is to complete the process by the end of 2019 and bring the other three health care organizations into the Mercy network by that time.

No further comment was expected from Mercy on Wednesday, a spokesman said. A spokeswoman for Ortho Four States could not be reached for comment.

Ortho Four States, founded and operated by a group of doctors and surgeons, specializes in care including orthopedics, sports medicine, physical therapy and interventional pain management. Its current facility was built in Galena in the late 2000s, moving from office space in Joplin, at least in part because doctors would save 50% on malpractice insurance by being based in Kansas as compared with Missouri, they told the Globe at the time.

It offers a variety of inpatient and outpatient services through its Stateline Surgery Center and Premier Surgical Institute.