As the healthcare industry has evolved due to a variety of factors, the process of acquisition of private practices by hospitals and large health systems has become a common process. These larger organizations, with their administrative and technological resources, were more readily able to enact the changes necessary to comply with the Affordable Care Act. Many affiliated practices, unable to react as numbly as these large health systems, were quickly acquired by these same health systems as the practices sought the support of these larger networks and the sytems sough greater market share.
As time has gone on, this process of hospitals and health systems acquiring practices has continued at a rapid clip, but many private practices are still thriving. Despite the fact that integrated care delivery models have become the new norm that benefits the most from health care reforms, these physician-led business continue to grow. How have these private practices been able to hold their own in a new healthcare landscape? Below are five ways many private practices are changing their business models and adapting to new norms in order to thrive in an evolving landscape.
1. Integration of Concierge Medicine
Originally designed for wealthy individuals, concierge medicine has evolved with time to become a viable option for individuals from nearly every income level. This “mebership” model has been adopted either in full or in part (hybrid model) by both large health systems and independent practitioners alike. By having patients pay a flat monthly fee for basic care, these physicians are able to bypass the insurance companies and decrease the costs associated with having to deal with them. At the same time, this has allowed independent physicians the freedom to provide the type of patient care they feel their patients need.
2. Technology Adoption
As our world becomes more interconnected and Americans spend more time interfacing with their devices, it is not surprising that technology is becoming so crucial to efficient health care delivery. Additionally, health care reform has placed additional emphasis on the use of technology, especially EMRs, by all providers. In order to comply, many independent practitioners have embraced EMRs and other technology used to provide their patients with an efficient and helpful patient care experience.
3. Efficient Support Staff
On of the main reasons many private practices chose to be acquired by health systems was that many lacked adequate administrative and clinical support. Whether it was medical billing, front office, or physician extenders, the support offered by many health systems made many independent physicians feel that they just wanted to see patients, not deal with the day to day administrative tasks. But many independent practices instead built out their own teams of administrative and clinical support staff, allowing them to become more efficient and effective.
4. Commitment to Patient Satisfaction
Many independent practitioners who are thriving have been pillars of their community for many years. As members of the community rather than members of an organization, these physicians are uniquely invested in the patient experience.Additionally, by not being beholden to health system mandated quotas, these physicians can spend as much time with a patient as needed. Through the years, they have built strong, long standing relationships with their patients and are able to maintain their loyalty.
5. Independent Practice Associations
These physician-led and organized associations offer many perks to member practices without stripping them of the independence that makes them unique.
Some major benefits include:
- Greater bargaining power with insurance companies
- Eliminate the duplication of expenses such as office management, EMR compliance, case management, and care coordination
- Ability to convert to an ACO model
- Option to accept insurance plans not contracted with through the IPA
- Ability to maintain independence while benefiting from increased administrative support
Membership in such organizations has allowed these practices to compete as if they were a larger health system while still maintaining their individuality and independence.
Key Take Aways:
- Many independent practices have been able to adapt to changes in health reform through flexibility and technology adoption
- The practice’s status in the community allows it to maintain and develop a large and loyal patient base
- New care delivery models, like concierge medicine, are being implemented in order to stay financially viable