Amid nationwide labor shortages in areas like primary care and nursing, outsourcing has also extended to specialists.
Providers that can't find qualified medical professionals or don't want to get tangled in employment issues are contracting out in certain specialties, one of them being OB-GYNs. OB Hospitalist Group has a network of more than 600 dedicated obstetrician hospitalists serving 120 active and onboarding partner hospitals across 28 states.
It handles all the recruitment and staffing responsibilities while reducing a hospital's risk exposure, which can allow a provider to focus on its core services, said Jami Walker, director of hospital operations at OB Hospitalist. A dedicated 24/7 group of on-call hospitalists can reduce variation in safety and quality, improve patient satisfaction and reduce physicians' workloads, Walker said.
"Forming partnerships with each hospital allows us to understand the needs from a patient standpoint and a community standpoint," she said. "The traditional model is not sustainable, especially with an aging medical staff."
Contracting out specialists can also help manage the ebbs and flows of demand for certain procedures, Walker added.
Many independent physicians and smaller physician groups that can't keep up with compliance costs and changes to payment models are migrating to bigger groups or health systems.
But some vertically integrated models will inevitably fail given the added expense and the complexity of managing physicians, said Joel French, CEO of SCI Solutions, which offers web-based access management products that connect patients, referring physicians and hospitals. "Physician compensation is one of the fastest-growing expenses in health systems," he said. "It has become as high as 10% of total expenses for some systems."
Some providers are turning to virtual integration, which allows a physician to remain independent while centralizing administration, spreading risk and gaining leverage with health plans, French said.