Whether it's meant to bring together employed or independent physicians or both, a physician enterprise needs to be flexible and transparent enough to achieve both cost reduction and better outcomes.
This article first appeared in the April 2015 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.
One of the more important strategic imperatives for hospitals and health systems is "physician alignment." That's been shorthand for finding a way for healthcare organizations to share risk and accountability with physicians as the industry moves gradually toward a changing payment orthodoxy based on cost and outcomes. Lately, the drive for physician alignment for many organizations is more than just talk. Many organizations are backing this drive with considerable investment in new management structures and specialized talent, information technology, and team-based care. Importantly, it's heavily physician-directed and led.
Organizations need to reach a critical mass of integration such that they can enter shared-risk contracts or ACO-type arrangements and feel comfortable that doctors and their fellow clinicians will follow care protocols, learn from each other based on evidence of cost and outcomes, and practice in a team-based environment. Building a physician enterprise that allows the organization to execute on its targets in these new arrangements is of top importance for senior leadership at many, if not most, healthcare organizations.
Why is the physician enterprise so important? Because it's the multi-tool for the organization. Whether you are a standalone hospital or an interstate health system, no other aspect of your organization can bring down your efforts, or ensure their success, than whether your physicians will cooperate to help lower the cost structure—the metric that will put the organization ahead in the value equation.
Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders.