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A skeptical view of the wave of hospitals hiring physicians

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In HealthcareDive, Wesley Curry, M.D., has some well-honed advice on hospitals’ seeming rush t0 hire physicians.

“The conventional wisdom of many healthcare experts is that physician employment is on the rise, and is the likely panacea to achieve satisfactory physician engagement and success in a value-based healthcare environment,” Dr. Curry said. But  he added  that  other recent studies have shown  that in some situations, physician employment – particularly in certain specialties – costs more and reduces  productivity.

To protect against potential risks, he says that hospitals  considering hiring physicians should, in HealthcareDive’s paraphrase:

  • “Have all contracts or other financial arrangements with physicians reviewed by an attorney who is familiar with healthcare law.
  • “Develop a referral policy, with input and overview by your attorney, to ensure physicians are aware of what types of referrals are acceptable under Federal regulations. Conduct audits to make sure the policy is being followed.
  • “Perform due diligence to see if there’s a cultural fit between physicians and the hospital.
  • “Hire a qualified consultant to look into any potential antitrust issues prior to an acquisition.”

As for physicians protecting themselves, he notes that physicians should also consult with their lawyers before signing any contracts, because there’s  usually very little flexibility in hospital-contract terms. And obviously, physicians who have been practicing for a long time and have large  numbers of patients  will have more negotiating power than those  new to practice.

Dr. Curry is a contrarian: He believes  that the increase in physician employment by hospitals will not be generally successful long term.

“I think hospitals in the future will have to ‘choose wisely’ their various specialty physician partners, with a focus on the value they can bring in integrating the care of the patients they serve across their transitions of care. “I expect a hybrid model of employment and outsourcing will emerge that is tailored to achieve the optimal physician alignment in the local healthcare environment of each hospital, where payment in the future will be tied to the patient experience, quality, and cost.”

To read the HealthcareDive article, please hit this link.

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