Convincing Rival Docs to Become Partners

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , February 2, 2012

"Sometimes it gets ugly, and it can get ugly pretty easily," he says.

At St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, NJ, things apparently had gotten ugly for a while with doctors and their department chairman, who had apparently announced that he would "separate their skulls from their bodies" if they disobeyed him. The doctors' medical group left the hospital and then sued. A jury decided last month that the chairman and the hospital should pay the doctors $1.7 million.

"When it gets ugly with physician groups and hospital administration, it gets uglier than in a lot of other businesses and it becomes much more personal for some reason," Levin says, speaking generally and not about the Bergen County case. "You have to reset the clock. Why you are there? What do you agree on? It may sound soft and fuzzy but it's not. You understand what everyone's interests are and you proceed forward, then face the dialogue."

Levin discussed some of the moves that leaders must make in creating a functioning team out of once-competing physician groups and hospitals:

1. Forget the vision thing

Levin says that while many groups get together and talk about a vision, few actually realize it. Too often, they rely on a statement without substance.

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