Doctors Joining Hospital Groups: Why the Trend?

By Megan Trent

July 3, 2010 Updated Jul 3, 2010 at 10:45 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - It's what medical experts are calling, "the next evolutionary step in the health care industry." They're talking about doctors joining health care systems at hospitals, and it's a growing trend.

Just this week the 28 doctor practice Indiana Medical Associates announced its disbandment with 11 drs expected to join the 200 physicians already employed through Parkview Hospital's Physicians Group. Another eight are expected to join Lutheran Medical Group. Many of IMA's 102 other staff members are also expected to go to work for local hospitals.

Lowell Teska is the CEO of Indiana Medical Associates. "Hospitals integrated during this last decade in an effort to help reduce costs and promote further quality, and now the next step seems to be for the physicians in the hospitals to consider working more closely together to accomplish those same goals moving forward," says Teska.

John Perlich is a spokesman for Parkview Health. He says, "I think as physicians see the complexity with health care reform, the complexity of medicare and medicaid payments, it really works best for them to join systems such as Parkview, where we can provide that administrative support and expertise in those certain areas, and they can focus on providing care."

Officials say it's a win-win situation for everyone involved - doctors, hospitals, and patients.

"We're able to handle the administrative support such as billing, handling their ordering, handling the finances, handling their technology needs. So, it's really a nice balance," says Perlich.

Teska says in many ways, the change will be invisible to patients. "They will continue to see their physicians. It's just that their physicians will either be working for the Parkview Physician group or the Lutheran Medical Group. Otherwise, the patient records will still be in tact, we'll still be using the same facilities, and so in many ways the patients won't even notice a difference."

Doctors and patients will also have the flexibility to go to whichever hospital they choose, says Perlich. He also says it's a trend he expects to see continue and grow.

"There are some physician practices in the community that are independant, and a lot of them will remain independant. There are some groups that like that flexibility and the independance of not being tied to one hospital or another," says Perlich.

But he also says Parkview has been approached by numerous other groups that think partnering with a local hospital is getting ahead of the curve when it comes to this popular trend.

Teska agrees that these transitions are the way of the future. "Physicians and hospitals really don't have any choice but to work more closely together in the future to get done what America needs done."

He may be right if recent examples are any indication. In Indianapolis, Saint Vincent Health system recently brought on board 130 physicians from "The Care Group," another private medical practice.

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