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Survey Shows Growing Acceptance of Integrated, Employed Physicians

Mar 31, 2014 05:58PM ● Published by MED Magazine

The current move toward an integrated physician model appears to be winning the approval of both healthcare leaders and many of the physicians they employ, according to a survey conducted by the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE).

For complete survey results, articles about employed physicians and a video featuring physician leaders discussing integration, visit www.acpe.org/employed.

According to those who responded positively to the survey, the benefits of the new model include improved communication, greater transparency, better physician job satisfaction and a more patient-centered focus.

Peter Angood, MD, President and CEO of ACPE, says it’s a promising sign for the health care industry as a whole.

“This is a strong and important trend that is essential for healthcare to become more successful in delivering what the public actually wants,” Angood said. “The ultimate goal is higher quality, safer care that’s more efficient, more personalized and is really customer-focused as an industry.”

The survey, which was sent electronically to ACPE members and completed by 617, found that 80 percent of participants either agreed or strongly agreed that the employed physicians within their healthcare organization were satisfied with the current integrated physician model.

When asked to gauge the feelings of administrators, the results were nearly identical, with 85 percent either agreeing or strongly agreeing that administrators were satisfied.

The trend toward physician employment exploded back in the 1990s but it was short-lived. Many physicians disliked the model, primarily because they didn’t want to give up their autonomy and found they could earn more money on their own. As the need for team-based care grows with the move toward value-based payment and population health management, hospitals are once again acquiring a growing number of physician practices.

But not all of the ACPE survey participants were enthusiastic supporters of the employed physician model. Some said there were still some serious flaws, particularly in the areas of physician engagement and alignment. A slim majority, 53 percent, said employed physicians were fully integrated into their hospital or health system, while 47 percent said they were not.

Likewise, when asked whether their organization had an incentive plan to encourage and reward physicians for being engaged in practice performance initiatives, the results were nearly evenly split, with 51 percent saying “yes” and 49 percent answering “no.”

Survey respondents were also asked to name the elements essential for success as an employed physician model. The answers named most frequently were appropriate IT support, aligned incentives and, most notably, strong physician leadership.

“The C-suite needs to bring physicians to the table (employed and voluntary) and discuss performance improvement and financial success and have the physicians share ideas,” wrote Patrice Hirning, MD, an internal medicine physician from Salt Lake City, UT.

Paul Gausman, DO, a family physician from Erie, PA, added, “Healthcare is changing rapidly and decisions are being made about it by people who do not interact with patients. Physician leaders provide insight across that divide and successful organizations will be the ones listening to them.”

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