Heart docs leave practices for hospital employment, transform care

Shrinking insurance payments and rising costs of running a business have pushed an increasing number of cardiologists to leave private practice and work at hospitals, according to an analysis by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

For instance, Lourdes Health System in New Jersey last year hired 47 cardiologists, while Main Line Health in Pennsylvania bumped its employed cardiologists from six in 2008 to 28 this year. Philadelphia's Temple University Health System plans to hire eight cardiologists from a nearby cardiology group.

Such hospital employment ventures offer physicians financial perks, given that Medicare pays higher reimbursements for services rendered at hospital-owned facilities, reported the Inquirer. Meanwhile, the hospitals benefit by developing closer relationships with physicians, enhancing care coordination and improving quality.

What's more, employed cardiologists are propelling new healthcare innovations at the hospitals where they work, noted MedCity News.

After becoming comanagers at Lourdes Health System, two cardiologists standardized cardiac care. The time to perform a catheterization dropped 15 minutes after they pushed the hospital to use equipment that diagnoses a heart attack before a patient leaves home. They also helped reduce hospital stays and improve patient satisfaction by establishing units that include nurses proficient in heart-failure and heart-surgery.

Once on salary, the physicians became fully engaged in transforming the hospital's care. "And why? Because they suddenly feel like what they say matters," Reg Blaber, a vice president at Lourdes, told the Inquirer.

Such findings bolster recent statistics from the American Hospital Association that found hospitals' physician employment jumped 32 percent from 2000 to roughly 212,000 physicians in 2010.

To learn more:
- read the Philadelphia Inquirer article
- here's the MedCity News article