Written by Jim Shadoan
Clinical integration is being pursued and achieved (at least at the base level) more than ever in our industry with payer consolidations, hospital mergers and acquisitions, and the highest number of employed physicians in history. This dynamic market makes maintaining partnering relationships difficult, but when you are successful, they will be more appreciated. Physicians and health system administrators must rethink their approach to successfully navigate the industry alignment. In order to actually achieve true clinical integration, they need to consider and develop a few key steps.
1. PHYSICIANS AS PARTNERS
Many physicians have concerns about clinical integration and whether their voice will have the influence they desire. These are valid concerns, but a well-structured partnership can be a positive organizational change with mutual benefits. Different integration business models offer various benefits to physicians that must not be overlooked. They often have a more sustainable business and profit through these models and can better manage payer risk and value-based payment.
Other benefits include leverage in rate negotiations, improved performance metric capabilities, increased access to clinical trials, and more advanced equipment. Whether they are employed or in private practice, physicians should always be treated as your partners. Productive collaboration will help reassure clinicians that their individual influence and patient relationships are protected within the larger system.
2. MULTIPLE COMMUNICATION APPROACHES
Communicating the benefits of integration to clinicians requires a few different approaches. The most responsive type of communication typically stems from a peer-to-peer approach. This message format reinforces a physician perspective, whereas an administrator’s approach might unwittingly trigger resistance.
Another promising option is mediation. An outside party can serve as a trusted advisor and work in the interests of all parties during consolidation and partnering agreements. Maintaining a relational aspect in every discussion helps bolster clinicians’ confidence and openness to structural change, so long as you find an advisor who has had success that both the health systems and the physician groups can confirm.
3. CO-DEVELOPED DATA SYSTEMS & REPORTS
The third step for successful integration is to provide meaningful data reports to prospective clinicians. These reports should be collaboratively developed by the healthcare system and partner physicians and show evidence of positive patient experiences, simplified patient tracking, and the overall efficiency of the larger, integrated healthcare system. Organized data helps clinicians better assess the advantages of hospital/physician partnering, especially when the reports include performance in context to their peers and the market.
4. PLAN & ADJUST OFTEN
Planning and co-creating the needed clinically integrated health and wellness system will require maintaining a portfolio of partnerships. With administrative turnover being higher than physician turnover, physicians often have a unique perspective and insight into the corporate history. When they use their knowledge to partner with administrative colleagues, physicians can be excellent champions for strategically integrating with the clinical, financial, and technological revolution sweeping our industry.
5. BE OPEN TO ASSISTANCE AND ONGOING LEARNING
Experienced healthcare management consulting firms and vendor partners can assist hospitals, physicians, and all involved parties with their unique integration challenges for successful partnering. The exchange must be mutually respectful and beneficial for a true partnership, and the same is required for reaching the highest level of clinical integration—the common goal of our industry.
Of course, the above is just a brief overview of achieving successful clinical integration. We all have a professional responsibility to continue the conversation, and there is still much to learn. Your thoughts and ideas are truly appreciated.
The G2 Group is a nationally-recognized, healthcare management consulting firm specializing in business development for hospitals, health systems, and physicians. If you have any specific questions about this topic or our other services, please email one of our experts directly.