Fixing the broken parts of a health system can be challenging for doctors, especially when they don't have all the tools needed to pull it off.
So, health systems such as Catholic Health Initiatives are striving to make sure their physicians have all of the key business functions and management services they desire within arm's reach. CHI, based in Englewood, Colo., recently announced it is forming a separate organization to cater to its 2,000 employed doctors, providing everything from revenue-cycle assistance to tools for easier scheduling of visits. CHI will offer the same amenities to as many as 10,000 outside clinicians.
If all goes smoothly, the health system hopes to drop its costs by about $100 million the next three years through efficiencies and improved processes, while also positioning itself as an attractive landing spot for physician recruits, says T. Clifford Deveny, M.D., senior vice president of physician services and clinical integration. "Everybody has to decide what they want to be when they grow up, and then how to use physician alignment activities to achieve that goal," he says. "Physician alignment is really a tool to service your strategy and your mission as an organization, long term."
CHI is speeding up the rollout of its management services organization with an assist from an outside vendor. Others, such as HCA in Nashville, Tenn., have taken on the effort in-house. HCA recently created a CEO of physician services to oversee the business unit.
Whether a health system wants to go it alone or seek outside help from others to service its doctors depends on a number of factors says Michael Lynch, vice president of recruitment at physician services firm Sheridan Healthcare. Those include the acuity of patients seen, volume of care provided and mix of specialties in the organization.
Either way, it's all about receiving the full warranted payment, especially in the dawning era of dwindling visits and slimmer reimbursement rates.
Competition to recruit and retain physicians is only going to grow fiercer in 2014 as the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect. Providing these services could be critical to attracting doctors, many of whom look to hospital employment for a better work-life balance and more freedom to focus on patients, Lynch says.
If done right, bolstering business functions and management services also can serve as a way to engage a physician staff, says John Combes M.D., senior vice president of the American Hospital Association. Hospitals also must be careful to abide by Stark laws and any other potential regulatory pitfalls that could pop up, he adds.
"It's only important if you can do it well and you can be a competitive advantage for them over what they currently have," he says. "The hospitals have to demonstrate that their management services are much more efficient than even the physician's own management or at least equal, and would not cost them more."