Universal Health Services isn't the only one taking a hard line on competing doctors.
Hospital cooperative VHA recently counseled its members to "build barriers" to restrict physician entrepreneurs who compete with them. Barrier-building has worked for several VHA member hospitals, notably eight-hospital OhioHealth in Columbus, said Jane Reichert, a senior consultant at VHA and co-author of a study VHA released late last year.
"Build barriers is just as it sounds-put up barriers so that (physicians) wouldn't be able to pursue competitive strategies," she said. For example, OhioHealth developed a conflict-of-interest policy that forbade physicians from investing in another inpatient facility at the risk of losing privileges, she noted. The strategy prevented at least one group from building a competing specialty hospital.
Another tactic is to encourage physicians "to think twice" before referring patients to specialists with investments in a competing hospital, she said. Hospitals might also leverage their positions with payers with a warning that if a competing facility were to open, the hospital would need higher rates to offset volume declines. Other groups are exploring what laws can be implemented to keep competing physicians at bay, she said.
There are warm-and-fuzzy strategies as well, such as cultivating physician-friendly environments and expanding hospital operations in cooperation with doctors, the study suggested.