5 Misconceptions of a Large Physician Practice

Debunking five common myths

Consolidation continues to be one of the healthcare industry’s biggest trends. From payors to providers, merger and acquisition activity doesn’t look like it will slow anytime soon.

On the provider side, large, national physician practices that focus on a specialty, like radiology or anesthesiology, continue to emerge as pressures of value-based care grow. In today’s healthcare environment, health systems can make this shift more effectively by partnering with large, national practices that are better positioned to improve quality and reduce costs. However, large national practices have, for various reasons, received undesirable reputations within the physician community.

Below are five common myths about large, national radiology practices – debunked.

1. Radiologists Lose Control

Reality: While many large practices have the reputation of only practicing on a national scale, a national practice can operate through local leadership to best serve the needs of patients, the health system and overall community. In order for large practices to be successful, they need to balance centralized autonomy with a governing model that ensures local practice teams have control over the local day-to-day operations.

This allows radiologists to make decisions regarding the schedule, local hospital interactions, clinical policies and procedures, yet still have the benefits of best practices that a national practice of scale offers. By accounting for patient needs, local radiologists can deliver the best patient outcomes and drive relationships with the local referring physicians.

2. Only Small, Crumbling Groups Join National Practices

Reality: Large, independent practices may not be facing the pressures of consolidation yet, they will. Consolidation is inevitable. Hospital systems are getting larger, payors are merging, and the industry is looking for ways to do more with less. That combination will put financial and performance pressure on radiology practices, regardless of size.

As a result, all practices, not just small, struggling practices, should evaluate joining a national practice. Rather than see consolidation as a negative, the result can be positive. Radiologists can benefit by maintaining local control and focusing on doing what they care about most – caring for patients. Health systems can benefit by partnering with a large radiology practice that drives better outcomes in clinical and operational value. Patients can benefit by receiving top quality care, delivered by their local, trusted radiologists. It’s a win-win-win.

3. Only Physicians Close to Retirement Benefit

Reality: In today’s healthcare environment, overall experience and satisfaction of patients and physicians are critical to a successful model. For this, inclusion of physicians of all ages is key. When smaller radiology practices join larger practices, the idea is not for physicians to retire, but to stay on and continue to make decisions like a private practice. The same rings true across other specialties as well.

Experienced radiologists are needed because they have long-lasting relationships with health systems and referring physicians, and can help guide overall practice decisions. Additionally, partnering with diverse client types such as academic medical systems, community hospitals, and individual imaging centers can lead to extreme growth for the newly practicing radiologists. It is a benefit for both experienced and young radiologists.

4. Resources of the National Practice Don’t Trickle Down

Reality: National practices are financially positioned for continued growth and investment, and have the means to be a strategic partner for health systems in navigating a rapidly changing healthcare landscape. They have an advantage with pricing for new equipment and technology and can help make the health system stronger with training and certification in new techniques that translate into higher quality and more efficient care.

A large physician practice can, and should, use its resources to develop clinical best practices through dedicated teams. These teams are able to focus solely on execution and quality outcomes and then share those learnings across the country. Small practices simply do not have the time and resources to devote to such initiatives.

Large practices also have the ability to scale and provide management infrastructure (i.e., human resources, group purchasing, credentialing, and more). This means a health system can benefit more easily since the resources and infrastructure are already in place.

5. The Organization Profits at the Expense of Their Radiologists

Reality: To avoid burnout and negative physician competition, large, national radiology practices can often succeed when they offer their physicians shareholding opportunities. This ownership results in physicians participating in the growth of the practice. The physicians’ motivation to succeed is therefore based on both their personal and professional behalf, and not at the expense of their peers or for the sole benefit of a small leadership group. This motivation leads to better satisfaction on the job and better outcomes for patients.

While there are misconceptions of large, national radiology practices, the truth is, when governed right, they can be extremely successful – for radiologists, health systems, referring physicians, and most importantly, patients.

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