The need to share resources to cut down on doctors’ workloads, Dr. O’Malley says, may be yet another factor in the accelerated rate of practice consolidation.
“There’s pressure among docs not just to function as teams but to consolidate among themselves either through physicians’ organizations like IPAs [independent practice associations] or becoming employees of hospitals,” she says. “That’s where you get economies of scale and shared infrastructure to do a lot of the things that the ACA is requiring of them.”
Consolidation or not, she sees plenty of potential for increased efficiency. Some medical groups may need to hire more support staff, whereas others may simply require more coordination and delegation among existing personnel to lighten the load and focus on priorities. The trick, Dr. Hilger says, is finding the right balance amid the dramatic change.
“Bottom line, it goes back to the triple aim that hospitalists should be aiming for: high quality, low-cost, patient-centered care,” he says. “I think the challenge over the next 10 years is how to find the sweet spot between all of those.”
Bryn Nelson is a freelance medical writer in Seattle.