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Caritas set to sell part of lab work

Caritas Christi Health Care is set to disclose today that it is selling a laboratory business to Quest Diagnostics Inc. for an undisclosed price and will use the New Jersey company’s technology to help manage medical records at Caritas hospitals.

The deal is part of a larger effort by Boston-based Caritas to cut costs and boost efficiency at its six Eastern Massachusetts hospitals, including St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton and Caritas Carney Hospital in Dorchester.

“This is not just about a sale of a business,’’ said Caritas chief operating officer Bob Guyon. “This is about an ongoing alliance with Quest Diagnostics that will help us control our costs and reduce the duplication in our health records.’’

Caritas, founded by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, is the state’s second-largest hospital chain, after Partners HealthCare. Until now, it has run its own specimen-collecting business, picking up blood samples and other materials from physicians’ offices, nursing homes, and other health care providers for testing in Caritas labs. That business competed with Quest, which runs a network of testing labs across the country.

Under the deal, Quest would acquire the Caritas business of picking up and testing samples from outside parties. But Caritas would continue to operate its labs within its hospitals.

As the health care industry consolidates, more hospital organizations are forming partnerships with independent companies that can offer greater scale or more up-to-date technology in such fields as laboratory testing and medical records, said health care consultant Marc A. Bard, managing director at Navigant Consulting in Needham.

“The watchword is stick to the knitting and do what you do best,’’ Bard said. “Caritas had a very good [lab] business, but they felt it was a line of business that was better left to a pure play company like Quest. Caritas’s business is delivery of health care. This will let them deploy their capital more strategically in their health care system.’’

Representatives of Quest Diagnostics, based in Madison, N.J., did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Under the alliance between Caritas and Quest, the parties would collaborate on a “secure information exchange’’ among Caritas hospitals, network physicians, and affiliated doctors, giving them access to diagnostic testing results from Quest labs and other information.

Guyon said Caritas hospitals will use Quest’s online ordering and results-reporting systems to update their health records.

“One of the big initiatives in this business is connectivity,’’ Guyon said.

Robert Weisman can be reached at