Hospital cardiovascular program managers and cardiology, cardiovascular surgery and vascular surgery practice administrators are well aware of the continuing evolution of cardiac and vascular medicine and the multitude of challenges facing each of us. For cardiovascular program leaders across the country, the challenges of the past will continue into 2010, along with new circumstances requiring creative solutions. The national debate over healthcare reform that is heating up is leading to more confusion and indecision about the future. Hospitals and physician practices continue to be inundated with strategic, clinical, financial, operational, and competitive issues that require informed organizational responses. The possible strategies to successfully address these issues are numerous and varied.
In such times, an approach that pools resources to solidify the program's foundation for the future is critical to short term and ongoing success. Sound physician/hospital alignment has the potential to be a CV service line transformative strategy that can:
- Align strategic, operational and financial incentives between physicians and hospitals
- Provide a platform for developing customized integration strategies
- Improve operating performance and profitability
- Reduce/prevent competitive risk and predatory recruitment
- Gain competitive advantage; retain and expand market share
Experience in the field of cardiovascular physician/hospital alignment projects, leads to several key conclusions when planning for a cardiovascular program's future:
- If you have seen one and done one, then you have seen just one and done just one. Unfortunately, what has worked in one city, for one hospital or group of physicians, may not work for you. A situation that seems similar to yours may be different in a crucial aspect that precludes your success.
- While there is a major trend towards hospitals employing specialists like cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons, this is not always doable-nor is it frequently the best answer in all circumstances and in all communities.
- It isn't always about money. Yes, economics and aligned incentives are important, but a myriad of personal, political and other factors can impact physician thinking and hospital actions. How often has a physician said that he wishes he was in charge of the CV service line for just one day? Very often, the issue is the appropriate exercise of control and sharing of management responsibilities.
- Do not think that establishing a physician/hospital alignment model is simple, straightforward and completed quickly-it can be a contentious, problematic, sometimes meandering, and occasionally disappointing process.
- Incremental steps are not a bad strategy. Alignment options short of employing physicians offer hospitals and physicians a chance to work together more closely and experience a new collaborative business model. Experiencing what it is like to work together under a new arrangement can prove invaluable to both parties prior to employment should that be a consideration. This is especially true during this period of uncertainty about the implications of healthcare reform.
Interested in further information on the topic of Hospital and Physician Alignment in the Cardiovascular Enterprise? Download a copy of CFA's article Physician and Hospital Alignment Strategies: