Survey: Are the days of independent cardiologists numbered?

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A MedAxiom survey of more than 150 cardiology practices reveals that 60 percent have either already fully integrated or are considering integration with a hospital; only 28 percent said they are not currently considering consolidation or will never consider it.

Survey respondents who have completed, or are in the midst of, the integration of their practices said that both their compensation and job satisfaction have increased as a result. "We knew healthcare reform was coming, and wanted to team in the marketplace to be better positioned to address issues such as quality of care and fee reimbursement as this environment evolves," said Cathie Biga, president and CEO of Cardiovascular Management of Illinois, and president of the Cardiology Advocacy Alliance.

Biga noted that the cardiologists in her practice insisted on having substantial impact on the nature of care delivered to patients under the integrated model. "We looked at the range of responsibilities that our doctors would have. Our doctors have taken an approach that benefits everyone, especially their patients," she said.

"Our dedication to quality and personal care has not changed," said Gregory Timmers, CEO at Prairie Cardiovascular in Springfield, Ill. "The fact is that healthcare in its current form does not work the way it's delivered. We are trying to put together a model that will deliver significantly greater benefits, while maintaining the trust-based relationships already established between doctors and their patients."

Prairie Cardiovascular has operated under an integrated model for more than a year.

"Integration offers additional benefits at the very time when practices are coming under greater pressure to provide improved care while keeping costs to a minimum," said Pat White, president the Neptune,Fla.-based MedAxiom. "Our members indicate that they are pursuing integration, but not at the cost of delivering value to their patients."

White added that many MedAxiom members have begun, or are exploring, the benefits of combining their practices to provide so-called ambulatory care, as well as integrating their practices into the operations of hospital systems and assisting in managing these critical service lines. He noted that of the practices that have already completed integration, the cardiologists and other personnel said they would recommend integration to their colleagues, with special attention being paid to issues such as governance and practice style.