Hospital alignment: Cards are in physicians' hands

A recent survey by the American College of Healthcare Executives found that 72 percent of members were looking to align more closely with physicians; and in many cases, physicians are interested in the opportunities.

Contrary to popular belief, however, becoming hospital affiliated doesn't have to mean a physician surrenders his or her autonomy. As health reform implementation approaches, budget-crunched hospitals eager to align with physicians are more willing than ever to go out of their way to accommodate physicians' nonfinancial requests.

"In the new environment, physicians want influence and decision-making power around how they're going to be managed," Charles Shabino, MD, senior medical adviser for the Wisconsin Hospital Association, told American Medical News. "It's probably more of negotiation than it has ever been."

For example, Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, N.C., which is part of UNC Health Care, employs some physicians directly. But the organization also has opened ambulatory surgical centers that are joint ventures with physicians, launched a nonprofit physician network and made available an electronic medical record system that can be used by all physicians in the community at subsidized rates, amednews reports.

Meanwhile, Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Wis., has said it's willing to create solo micropractices for physicians if they say that is what they want. And recruiters nationwide say that hospitals are far more receptive to flexible or limited physician schedules than they've ever been in the past.

"The gap is getting wider between the demand and the supply. Hospitals are realizing, 'We need to be flexible,'" said Randy Munson, physician recruitment program manager in the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health. "If you were playing cards, physicians would be holding the aces and the kings and the queens. Hospitals have the threes and the fours and the fives. It's just so competitive."

To learn more:
- read the article in American Medical News