Some experts think physicians may feel it's time to think about becoming part of an accountable care organization, so ACO may replace SGR as the buzz acronym of the year.
“A year ago, we couldn't even spell it,” says William Jessee, president and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association, while talking about ACOs. “We've always been a pretty trendy industry, but this is the hottest thing since sliced bread.”
The American Medical Group Association takes credit for getting the language that created ACOs into the healthcare reform bill, and Donald Fisher, AMGA's president and CEO, thinks support for the concept is strong enough to withstand any challenges brought on by those seeking to weaken or repeal healthcare reform.
“I'm hopeful that, whatever else happens, this whole notion of ACOs will remain intact.” Fisher says.
Fisher and Jessee see the trend for physicians to seek employment with hospitals and move away from independent practice continuing.
“I think there's a growing trend toward alignment with larger entities,” Fisher says.
Stephen Moore, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Catholic Healthcare Initiatives, agrees.
He says his organization, based in Englewood, Colo., has about 1,500 employed physicians and will likely double that in the next three to five years.
Last year, however, there was a shift away from hospitals acquiring primary-care practices as they appeared to focus more on “high-dollar specialists” such as cardiologists, oncologists and orthopedic surgeons, Jessee says.
“I suspect that will continue in 2011,” he adds.
Jessee describes the new hunt for practice acquisitions as “more strategic, less panic-stricken,” as hospitals are done thinking that “if I don't buy them, my competitor will.