A delivery network formed by four Milwaukee-area medical groups is beginning to rival the city's three dominant hospital-run systems.
The joint venture, called Community Physicians Group, has spurred other physician organization activity in Milwaukee, said Gerald McCarthy, M.D., chief medical officer for the Milwaukee-based Horizon Healthcare system.
"I think it's stimulated a lot of hospital anxiety over whether this physician organization will control the market," McCarthy said.
CPG was started in late 1994 by Milwaukee Medical Clinic and two Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based groups, Medical Associates Health Centers and Falls Medical Group. West Bend (Wis.) Clinic joined last summer.
Aurora Health Care, Covenant Healthcare Systems and Horizon had offered to buy the practices, which chose instead to form their own corporation.
"We decided that to be owned by someone else wasn't part of our culture," said CPG President Eugene Monroe, M.D.
The clinics collectively have 265 physicians at 22 offices and two ambulatory surgery centers. CPG also owns Advanced Health Network, a management services organization, which includes an independent practice association affiliated with St. Joseph's Hospital in Milwaukee and other practices, for a total of 650 physicians.
Meanwhile, the CPG clinics are studying a merger, which could help them streamline operations and share information. The clinics will decide whether to proceed in about 90 days, Monroe said.
AHN is leveraging its geographic coverage and utilization controls to create managed-care products in which it will be a sole or preferred provider and possibly an equity partner, Monroe said.
This week, coverage begins on the network's first product, a PPO for self-insured employers. AHN expects to sign deals with PrimeCare Health Plan, Milwaukee's leading insurer, to be the sole provider for a new HMO and the preferred provider for a point-of-service product, Monroe said.
For now, the network is trying to remain hospital-neutral. All the hospital systems have approached CPG to discuss a partnership, Monroe said, but the physicians declined.
Horizon wants badly for CPG to collaborate with its 80 employed physicians in Milwaukee.
"Horizon's very willing to turn to CPG and say, `Provide leadership to us,"' McCarthy said.
On the other hand, Aurora, which previously concentrated on linking with physicians outside the Milwaukee area, has stepped up efforts to organize physicians in the city.
In south Milwaukee, home of Aurora's St. Luke's Medical Center, Aurora purchased a 15-physician practice that had joined AHN. Aurora also is in discussions with Dean Clinic in Madison, Wis., to form a Milwaukee-based medical group that would organize physicians on the city's north side, CPG's back yard.
Diane De La Santos, Aurora's vice president of public affairs, said the recent moves are not a response to CPG.
"Increasing our coverage (in those areas) has been an identified need, irrespective of what other groups may be doing," De La Santos said.