Hospitals and health systems have been rapidly employing physicians to help meet the goals of healthcare reform. But the integration has been far from smooth.
A new study from the Kentucky Hospital Association, conducted by Lexington-based accounting and consulting firm Dean Dorton Allen Ford, found that local hospitals are incurring greater losses in 2014 than they did the prior year. The results were based on a survey of 20 hospital executives in or near Kentucky.
A total of 58% of respondents reported losses exceeding $100,000 per physician in 2014, up from 41% in 2013. The report did not itemize costs associated with employing physicians, but for every physician practice a hospital or system absorbs, it must upgrade its information technology, pay comprehensive benefit packages and assume the costs of maintaining office space, equipment and staff.
Many healthcare executives argue that even if physician employment strains their balance sheets in the short term, it's a key step toward creating clinically integrated networks that allow them to participate in risk-based payment models, such as accountable care organizations. However, the survey found that 42% of executives aren't tracking downstream contributions from physician integration. And among those who are, there's no clear consensus on whether there's any downstream benefit at all.—Beth Kutscher