Lafayette-based LHC Group Inc. has begun a home health joint venture with Baptist Health System, one of the largest healthcare systems in Alabama.

The new partnership will improve patient care, LHC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Keith G. Myers said in a news release. LHC will help patients recover at home while preventing costly and avoidable hospital readmissions as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

Baptist Health System has hospitals in Birmingham, Talladega, Alabaster and Jasper and provides care to more than 33,000 people a year. The health system has 1,080 total licensed beds and more than 800 credentialed doctors. The system employs 4,300 people.

LHC will release its 2011 earnings Wednesday after the markets close.

Stock analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect LHC to turn a profit of 35 cents per share during the fourth quarter and $1.70 for the year.