What Hospitals are Looking for in Physician Partners

October 11, 2013

Hospitals have an eye toward physician practices, and aligning is a key goal for 2014.

Aligning with hospitals presents great opportunities for some physician practices who are interested in participating in potential revenue-boosting health reform initiatives, such as accountable care organizations.

But many hospitals are looking for practice partners that have specific characteristics. The more attractive your practice is to them, the more likely it is you will be able to pick the right partner for your practice, and you will have more leverage in decision-making when partnering up.

During their session at the Medical Group Management Association Annual Conference in San Diego, "Physician Leadership Strategies: Aligning with Hospitals for Healthcare Reform," presenters Colleen Vetere, vice president of orthopedics/spine consulting, and David Hermann, vice president of supply chain, logistics, and purchasing from Centennial, Colo.-based consulting firm MedAssets, shared some guidance with practices hoping to partner up. The session, which took place Tuesday, Oct. 8, focused on scenarios for alignment and the variables that should be taken into account before considering a partnership.  

The key to hospital success in aligning with physician practices is engaging the right physicians in common goals, said Vetere. For that reason, hospitals are looking for the physician champions who can  lead clinical initiatives, and get colleagues excited about improving patient care and lowering costs.

"Once you start presenting data to physicians, you create a real hunger [for improvement]," said Vetere. "Employers are now looking at who they want to practice with so your outcomes, length of stay, whatever it might be becomes really important."

Hospitals are also scrutinizing potential healthcare partners by looking at metrics such as bundled payments, financial losses, and records of outcome improvement to compare the cost of care.

"If hospitals want lucrative payer contracts, they cannot do that without partnering with the physician," said Vetere. "If that hospital doesn't have good outcomes and good costs, you're going to have trouble partnering with those payers."

When aligning, said Vetere, hospitals and practices will need to figure out: What is the right cost for the best quality of care? What are the outcomes we want and how do we do reach them at the lowest cost? The resulting answers may lead to arrangements such as co-management agreements with defined outcomes, she said.

Has your practice recently aligned with a hospital? What suggestions would you share with other practices?