Clinical integration can bolster stability in challenging times. 


As today’s hospitals and health systems are well aware, the world of health care is being reshaped like never before. From the ACA, to marketplace changes, to standoffs in Washington, D.C., drivers of change are redefining who we are and what we do. Shifts toward population health management and pay for performance are also creating new challenges for providers. Meanwhile, CFOs are wondering, “How can I stay competitive in this new environment?” I think that one important way—which we’ve been focusing on at Conway Regional Health System, where I am CFO—is to work toward better integration of physicians and care delivery.

By working to effectively manage integration, providers can realize numerous financial and quality-related benefits. Integrating care yields cost savings and centralized services. It also can improve a provider’s market position by increasing the scope of services, expanding the continuum of care, and bolstering quality outcomes. There’s also the other side of the coin: Provider executives who twiddle their thumbs on integrating to prepare for a value-based marketplace may have difficulty catching up when that marketplace becomes predominant. 

Physician integration will be a vital part of managing patient populations in the future. By creating long-term relationships with physicians aimed at promoting excellence in care delivery collaboration and innovation, hospitals and health systems can maximize value for patients while giving physicians an increased sense of connection to the provider organizations where they work. Successful integration depends on each party’s commitment to work collaboratively toward shared goals. Thus, achieving alignment on these goals is often the first step.

Some organizations are taking integration steps that focus on outreach. They are expanding patient access to ambulatory care services or telemedicine, or are bolstering outreach through investments in IT that can expand services and service areas. Not all organizations have highly advanced technology, but almost all can still find new ways to eliminate redundancies and share information more effectively. With population health management looking like a trend that’s here to stay, striving to maintain informational effectiveness across large populations will remain a priority for the foreseeable future. 

At my organization, I can’t say we’re fully integrated, but we’re working on it. We have a clinical integration steering committee composed of members of the medical staff and senior leaders. The steering committee’s primary purpose is to help define the structure of clinical integration and outline specific goals—all within the context of providing the most appropriate care at a lower cost, thereby improving the value of our services. 

I believe investing in clinical integration can make our organizations stronger and more stable, even during times of transition and uncertainty. Whatever the industry climate,
we can always make progress by moving toward value. When physicians and providers align around goals and commit to integration, they take a powerful step in the right direction.

Publication Date: Friday, November 01, 2013

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