Hospitals go on a doctor-shopping spree

It may sound odd in a year that has seen massive hospital layoffs, but some hospitals are on a doctor-shopping spree, according to NPR/Kaiser Health News.
 
WakeMed employs 138 doctors, up from 47 in 2000. And it plans to hire another 60 over the next six months. Rex Healthcare, which is part of the University of North Carolina's healthcare system, has hired 30 physicians over the past few years and plans to hire another 55, according to Steve Burris, senior vice president in charge of physician employment at Rex.
 
Because Raleigh, N.C., is a superheated market, Burris will have to act quickly. Just this week, it was reported that UNC Hospitals nearly doubled the pay of a heart surgeon to $600,000 to ensure they retained him.

Besides ensuring a steady flow of patient referrals, hiring doctors makes it easier to coordinate services. And having more doctors on board is one way to prepare for the new healthcare reform law to kick in, rewarding the creation of more efficient, integrated approaches to care.

Losing the loyalty of local physicians can disrupt the flow of patient referrals and affect a hospital's bottom line, Burris told NPR/Kaiser Health News. In the Raleigh area, only around 67 practices aren't affiliated with a hospital; Burris predicts most eventually will be. "If we don't accommodate the needs they have, they're going to look to someone else," he said.
 
According to the Medical Group Management Association, half of new doctors were hired by hospitals last year. For doctors like Dr. Alden Parsons, a thoracic surgeon who just finished 15 years of medical training, it's a lifestyle choice. She didn't want long hours and the administrative headaches of running her own practice, reports NPR/Kaiser Health News.
 
The article, however, fails to point out another "push" factor. Cuts in Medicare reimbursements as high as 30 percent will take effect Dec. 1. They could help explain why doctors with their own practices might consider cutting and running.
 
To learn more:
- read the NPR/Kaiser Health News article

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