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J Healthc Manag. 2014 May-Jun;59(3):195-208.

Physician clinical alignment and integration: a community-academic hospital approach.


An overwhelming need for change in the U.S. healthcare delivery system, coupled with the need to improve clinical and financial outcomes, has prompted hospitals to direct renewed efforts toward achieving high quality and cost-effectiveness. Additionally, with the dawn of accountable care organizations and increasing focus on patient expectations, hospitals have begun to seek physician partners through clinical alignment. Contrary to the unsuccessful alignment strategies of the 1990s, today's efforts are more mutually beneficial, driven by the need to achieve better care coordination, increased access to infrastructure, improved quality, and lower costs. In this article, we describe a large, academic, tertiary care hospital's approach to developing and implementing alignment and integration models with its collaboration-ready physicians and physician groups. We developed four models--short of physicians' employment with the organization--tailored to meet the needs of both the physician group and the hospital: (1) medical directorship (group physicians are appointed to serve as medical directors of a clinical area), (2) professional services agreement (specific clinical services, such as overnight admissions help, are contracted), (3) co-management services agreement (one specialty group co-manages all services within the specialty service lines), and (4) lease arrangement (closest in scope to employment, in which the hospital pays all expenses and receives all revenue). Successful hospital-physician alignment requires careful planning and the early engagement of legal counsel to ensure compliance with federal statutes. Establishing an integrated system with mutually identified goals better positions hospitals to deliver cost-effective and high-quality care under the new paradigm of healthcare reform.

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