Hospitals struggle with physician poaching

Health systems have been ramping up efforts to lure cardiologists and specialty physicians; however, some healthcare leaders claim aggressive doc acquisitions hike costs and leave patients stuck in the middle, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

"In many communities around the country, the issue of physician poaching has been going on for years," OhioHealth CEO David Blom told the newspaper. "The result is an escalation of healthcare costs that the business community ultimately pays."

OhioHealth has lost 21 cardiologists during the past six years and recently sued eight independent cardiologists who went to work for Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center for violating non-compete clauses.

Similar acquisitions occurred in Massachusetts, where expanding hospital operator Steward Health Care System in February affiliated with a physician group that was affiliated with Tufts Medical Center's New England Quality Care Alliance.

That doc affiliation followed Steward's deal with Whittier Independent Practice Association, in which Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in November accused Steward of offering generous incentives and kickbacks. In December 2011, Steward also nabbed Compass Medical from Partners HealthCare.

Systems scooping up docs dispute the concept of "physician poaching" and say there's no formal recruitment strategy to entice doctors away from competing hospitals, noted the Dispatch.

"[W]e have not actively approached specialists that are employed by other regional health systems unless (the physicians) have approached us," Richard "Rick" Streck, chief medical officer of Mount Carmel, told the newspaper. In 2009, a group of six cardiologists left OhioHealth's Riverside Riverside for Mount Carmel Health System's St. Ann's Hospital.

As hospital-physician employment continues to grow, so does competition among hospitals and larger systems to employ, merge or acquire docs. "Competition to recruit candidates and employ them is as fierce as we have seen," Jim Stone, president and cofounder of The Medicus Firm, told FierceHealthcare in a previous interview.

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