Ibe Mbanu, MD, MBA, MPH, became medical director of the adult hospitalist department at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, Va., about six months ago. Since then, he’s been besieged by a torrent of reform-based challenges he says make his job exponentially more difficult than that of medical directors just a few years ago.
Accountable-care organizations (ACOs), value-based purchasing, and discussions about bundled payments for episodic care are changing rapidly, and as a new administrator in a group with 24 hospitalists and three nonphysician providers (NPPs), he felt he needed to attend his first SHM annual meeting to keep up.
“The landscape in health care is rapidly evolving, at a frantic pace,” Dr. Mbanu says. “I essentially came here to just try to get a condensed source of information on how to manage the changes that are coming through the pipeline, and how to effectively run my department.”
Managing a practice is a challenge, and many of the more than 2,700 attendees at HM13 said the four-day confab’s focus on the topic was a major draw. From a rebooted continuing medical education (CME) pre-course appropriately named “What Keeps You Awake at Night? Hot Topics in Hospitalist Practice Management” to dozens of breakout sessions on the topic, it’s clear that successful practice management is a concern for many hospitalists.
“Before, the drivers were pretty clear,” Dr. Mbanu says. “Volume, productivity. Now we’re switching more toward a business model that’s changing from volume to value. Trying to adapt to that change is pretty challenging.
“Now it’s critical to really understand the environment.”
One particularly hot topic this year was the trend of hospitalists taking on more comanagement responsibilities for patients previously managed by other specialties, including neurology, surgery, and others. Frank Volpicelli, MD, a first-year hospitalist and instructor at New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center in New York, was one of three members of his HM group that attended the “Perioperative Medicine: Medical Consultation and Co-Management” pre-course. This summer, his group is going to establish a presence in the preoperative clinic.
“We hope very strongly that we can prevent some complications, identify patients that we should be following when they come into the hospital, and help the surgeons out,” he says. “No. 1, keep them in the [operating room] more, and No. 2, get in front of some of the complications that they are less comfortable managing.”
Ralph Velazquez, MD, senior vice president of care management for OSF Healthcare System in Peoria, Ill., isn’t so sure comanagement of more and more patients is the best practice-management model moving forward. For example, as physician compensation is tied more to how much their care costs to deliver, a hospitalist comanaging a surgical patient’s elective knee replacement could be financially penalized for the cost of that person’s stay, despite having nothing to do with the most expensive portion of the bill.
“You have a financial model that says do more billings, but as you start developing analytics … you may see there is no difference between the model that’s doing more billing, in terms of improving quality, and the one that is doing less,” Dr. Velazquez says. “So if you’re getting the same amount of quality, and the only thing you’re doing is generating more cost by doing more billing, you need to reevaluate your strategy.”
He believes some patients benefit from comanagement, but HM groups have to be diligent in seeking them out.
“We look for simple solutions and one-size-fits-all,” he adds. “Comanagement in complex patients—definitely there’s a need for that. Comanagement in noncomplex patients, elective patients—there’s no need for that. It’s just additional cost. I don’t think it’s going to produce any value.”