Is Physician Integration Driving Up the Cost of Care?

Rene Letourneau, for HealthLeaders Media , July 15, 2013

"I think as healthcare systems gain more focus on physician engagement and integration, the goal is to improve the overall continuum of care. If you are going to do that properly, it requires a lot more resources upfront, such as infrastructure investment in EHR and support personnel. What we may be seeing at this stage is more upfront investment than a sustained increase in cost, although it is going to take a bit of time to see that," Angood says.

See Also: Physician Integration Failures Are Avoidable

"The hope is that by doing these upfront investments, the cost of care along the continuum will not only plateau, but decrease," he adds.

T. Clifford Deveny, MD, senior vice president for physician services at Catholic Health Initiatives, an 80-hospital, $10.7 billion nonprofit health system based in Englewood, CO, agrees that there are some initial start-up costs involved when a hospital buys a medical group, but says that does not have to translate into higher care costs.

"There will be an investment in bringing in a physician practice with the EMR and integrating the practice into the system, but it is an individual choice by the health system as to whether it is going to pass that cost on to the community," Deveny says. "Most administrators aren't big fans of the cartel mentality of 'because we are bigger we deserve more pay.' Most systems are absorbing those costs."

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