Shakeup as 400 Boston-area doctors join rival physician network

There’s been a major shakeup in the competitive market for doctors in Eastern Massachusetts, as a network with nearly 400 physicians will soon switch allegiance.

The doctors who are part of the Hallmark Health System, based in Medford, Massachusetts just north of Boston, have decided to end a two-decade affiliation with Boston-based Partners HealthCare to join a rival network affiliated with Tufts Medical Center, according to The Boston Globe.

The Hallmark physicians will join Tuft’s physician network, the New England Quality Care Alliance which currently has about 1,800 doctors, starting January 1, if the affiliation is approved by regulatory authorities, the newspaper reported. The decision to switch networks comes a month after Hallmark announced it would pursue a merger with Wellforce, Tuft’s parent company, the report said.

Since practices are more likely to refer patients to the hospital where they are affiliated, the agreement could mean more patient referrals to Tufts and less to Partners’ 10 hospitals, which includes Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Hallmark was seeking a buyout by Partners, Massachusetts’ largest health system, for three years but the plans fell apart in December 2015 because of anti-trust issues, the newspaper said.

Across the country, hospitals are increasingly acquiring private physician practices, which in some cases has raised questions about anti-trust laws.

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