Is this the model for ‘virtual’ ACOs? Sisters of Charity Health System Creates Safe Haven For Independent Physicians

Sisters of Charity Health System, a faith-based organization, announced today the launch of its subsidiary, Independent Physician Solutions (IPS), to offer Northeast Ohio independent physicians a continuum of services, including revenue cycle management, electronic medical records (EMR), managed care contracting and a suite of a la carte consulting services for practice operations and financial management.

“What is different about IPS is that we are a physician-led organization, which will offer an equity model that physicians can invest in if they so choose and a governance structure that will have more than 50 percent of the board comprised of physicians,” said Orlando L. Alvarez, Jr., IPS CEO and Sisters of Charity Health System senior vice president for physician alignment.

Through a unique market arrangement with GE Healthcare, IPS will offer General Electric’s Centricity® Practice Solution offering as its EMR solution.  The selection of this product included a robust vetting process that involved physicians from across all Sisters of Charity Health System markets as well as a physician advisory committee comprised of independent physicians.

The technology will position independent medical practitioners to demonstrate meaningful use in order to receive federal incentives as well as provide them with efficiencies and other benefits of practicing in an electronic environment. Additionally, IPS will allow independent medical practitioners to maintain their independence while keeping pace with larger, affiliated practices and meeting the new technology requirements mandated under the Affordable Care Act of 2010. IPS will also provide billing and collections services and hopes to organize physicians into an Independent Practice Association (IPA) in order to develop clinical integration strategies and group contract opportunities with health care insurance companies and other payors.

The Sisters of Charity Health System’s investment includes securing a talented management team led by Mark Wiedt, IPS president and chief operating officer. Wiedt most recently served as CEO of the largest independent multi-specialty physician group in Northeast Ohio. With decades of experience in managing physician practices, Wiedt and his team will lead the operations of the physician-focused organization.

The long-term goal of IPS is to position its physicians for the inevitable changes in health care as a result of new reimbursement models and health care reform legislation. With its technology infrastructure, IPS will be able to tackle the challenges of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and other population management models.

In spite of national trends, Northeast Ohio has a large number of independent physicians who have yet to become employed by hospital systems.

“It is really about strategy,” continued Alvarez. “We believe that independent doctors who wish to remain independent need to partner with organizations whose goal is not to control their patient records or gobble them up in an employment model. Our goal is to create a ‘safe haven’ for the independent physician and garner the collaboration of physicians who share our faith-based mission.”

IPS is aggressively recruiting from a pool of more than 4,000 independent physicians in Northeast Ohio to make them aware that they have options that will enable their practices to remain truly independent.

“My partnership with IPS provides my practice the support and expertise I need, without giving up my autonomy,” said Gregory Hall, M.D., internal medicine. “It allows me to continue doing what’s best for my patients without feeling controlled.”

Dr. Hall understands all too well the pressure that independent physicians are feeling to quickly become compliant with the pending health care reform requirements, which often means sacrificing their independence.

“Many of us own practices that are small businesses, and we have been very successful for years in treating our patients and managing our books,” continued Hall. “But with new EMR requirements, some physicians are overwhelmed with the adoption process and feel they have no choice but to completely affiliate with a large health system that can help them with new technology requirements. Now Northeast Ohio physicians have an option that actually encourages their independence.”

“We have a long legacy of collaboration and partnership with our independent physicians,” said Sister Judith Ann Karam, CSA, president and CEO, Sisters of Charity Health System. “We made it part of our faith-based mission to invest in this very important initiative to help ensure the high-quality and efficiency of health care in Northeast Ohio.”

Original source, click here.


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  1. Interesting approach…we’ll have to see how many docs go for it…not sure that “virtual” is the best term to describe it — signing up for GE EHR seems like a fairly big commitment.

    1. Hi Vince, thanks for comment.

      I think the ‘virtual’ term here is specific to a contractual network, vs. a fully integrated (clinically and economically) ACO.

      The jury is out on how these entities will need to be constructed legally.

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