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Successful Practice/Hospital Alignment: How to Make it Work

alignment-1024x790Everywhere in healthcare today, the emphasis is on alignment. Whether the conversation is about patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organizations (ACOs) or other value-based care models, everyone is asking how to better link healthcare costs with healthcare quality. With these new models comes the need to rethink how different healthcare organizations work together. This inevitably leads to another alignment question: How can physician practices join forces with hospitals to drive expenses down and outcomes up? Answering this question will help improve results of other alignment efforts.

Many hospitals are answering these questions by buying or affiliating with physician practices. In fact, more than half of the practices in the U.S. are now hospital-owned, according to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). To make these relationships work, however, hospitals and practices must synchronize the needs of their partners with their own requirements. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Make sure hospital objectives match practice incentives. As this video explains, lack of alignment was a key reason why hospitals in the 1990s quickly sold off the practices they’d purchased only a few years before. The benefit of hindsight can help us avoid the same mistakes today.
  • Adapt workflow processes. As practices and hospitals begin an affiliation, they must develop clear, coordinated processes for fundamental workflows. Denial management, for example, should be carefully monitored as workflows are integrated.
  • Evaluate key performance indicators. Tracking important metrics such as denial rates, A/R days and productivity can help quickly identify any reimbursement challenges, as well as potential areas for improvement.
  • Develop an inclusive culture that embraces collaboration and change. To ensure all voices are heard and all viewpoints are represented, appoint a diverse mix of affiliated and employed physicians to key leadership roles.
  • Share tips, best practices and lessons learned. That’s one way to help minimize the potential risks of weighty transitions such as ICD-10, Meaningful Use and the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS).

The fee-for-service environment of the past has done little to encourage collaboration within healthcare. Now that there’s a concerted push to reward better patient outcomes instead of “heads in beds,” practices and hospitals have a perfect opportunity to align for better patient care.