Trends in Practice: Strategic Partnerships of Physician Groups and Hospital Systems

SchiroIn the current health care environment, partnerships between physician groups and hospital systems are becoming common. In this Q&A, Brian Schiro, MD, discusses health care trends that make such partnerships beneficial, as well as his own experiences with joining a larger alliance. Dr Schiro is an interventional radiologist at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute in Florida, and he has collaborated on the development of the program for the Symposium on Clinical Interventional Oncology, which takes place from February 3-4, 2018 in Hollywood, Florida.

You work for a practice that recently entered into a strategic alliance with a larger company. What are some of the reasons for entering such an alliance?

I think it’s important for everyone to be aware that interventional oncology faces a variety of challenges in the future. Among these challenges are the looming changes to the health care environment, including CMS regulations, political pressure from Washington, and changes in reimbursement models. We have many challenging areas to manage from a health care practice environment.

In the coming years, these factors will force us to show value in terms of both outcomes for patients and cost-effective care. These influences are driving forces for reorganization and consolidation of private radiology practices, and interventional radiology practices in particular,   into larger health care systems.

Throughout the country, many hospital systems are acquiring physician groups due to changing reimbursements based on outcomes, quality of care, and cost control. Our parent company is Radiology Associates of South Florida, and we recently joined with MEDNAX Health Solutions Partner.

I think this partnership is very beneficial. It gives us the opportunity to be poised at the forefront of national leadership in radiology, including interventional oncology, because this is a large company that has a lot of national connections with multiple physician groups. They’re just in the process now of partnering in strategic alliances with radiology groups such as ours.

What are some of the benefits of alliances?

I think these strategic alliances are necessary to continue the growth of practices, and also for private practices to remain autonomous. There are many practices that are being acquired by hospital systems, which requires practices to relinquish independence and self-governance. The practice then must follow the rules and regulations of the hospital. Partnering with Mednax is a way for us to have some strength in our own practice and remain a viable group.

Hospital systems may benefit from these alliances as well. One appealing aspect for our hospital was the excellent IT support offered by the company, including new technology such as machine learning. Being part of a larger group also gives us more power for lobbying for positive health care change. Large groups tend to have more influence in the political arena and a louder voice in Washington.

Are there any challenges to being part of a larger group?

When joining with a large group, it is important to understand that the direction of one’s practice will shift to a larger focus; that is, our strategic plan will parallel with the larger goals of our parent company. Although the local governance of our practice remains within our original group, we now must work closely with the larger leadership of the parent company to achieve these goals. Providing quality care in a cost-effective manner is one of these goals. The tradeoff for all of this is that it gives us the ability to grow. It gives us a stepping stone to expand out into more regions and reach a national platform.

We will have more of an ability to market the type of care that we can provide at our hospital. This will give us the ability to reach more patients and provide them with care that they otherwise might not have been able to access.  

What can an individual practitioner do to prepare when their practice is about to enter a strategic partnership?

It’s important to have a good, collegial working environment with your hospital administrators because buy-in from everyone is needed in order to proceed with these types of partnerships. The hospitals have to be on board with this so that they can think about future arrangements of getting more patients into the health care system.

What are you looking forward to now that this partnership is in place?

I’m looking forward to having the ability to expand, to grow, and to build up our interventional oncology practice and reputation. I’m hoping we can better market our services so that we can provide the best care to as many patients as possible.

Do you have any personal wish lists that you would like to see at your facility?

I would like to see us involved with more early research and to become involved at the ground level of developing procedures. We do some of that now, but it would be great to do more. The partnership will help to facilitate this by allowing collaboration with more colleagues and caring for more patients.