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Service Lines Growing, But Aligning Physicians is Tough

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, March 22, 2012

As hospital systems work on aligning physicians in service lines, 74% say they are developing standard clinical and operational procedures. But only 35% say they involve physicians in fiscal oversight of organizations. Leaders reveal that their top three service line challenges all involve physicians and finances, the survey shows.

Building physician teams 'not a simple process'
Geidt says he's not surprised by those findings. "It's hard," he says, referring to putting a physician team together for a service line. "It requires a lot of vision, a lot of capital and a lot of energy, " Geidt says.  Not only are hospital systems working to improve that physician-hospital integration through electronic medical records, there's the human element. "There's a lot of independent physicians involved, and there's a lot of politics. It's certainly not a simple process," he explains.

Despite Geidt's cautionary comments, MemorialCare Health System's alignment with physicians may be considered relatively smooth compared to other systems, because it has for years incorporated physicians into the process of hospital leadership and service line oversight.

At Memorial Care, a medical foundation and physician society were established to develop physician leadership programs, which have resulted in doctors "getting a true involvement in key decision-making areas, " says Barry Arbuckle, PhD, President and CEO of the MemorialCare Health System and lead advisor for the HealthLeaders Media intelligence report.

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