Health systems are striving to strengthen ambulatory care platforms and improve physician alignment as they race toward value-based care. In a new white paper, Regent Surgical Health suggests pursuing these two strategies together to help manage evolving reimbursement realities.

Building a Robust Ambulatory Platform

“A strategically interconnected ambulatory care platform is critical to achieving success with value-based care, not only because it enables a health system to deliver care more cost-effectively, but because it allows the organization to serve the community well at the same time,” says Chris Bishop, CEO of Regent Surgical Health in the new white paper, titled “Double Your Ambulatory Platform by 2020.”

A leader in developing and managing hospital-ASC joint ventures, Regent’s experience demonstrates expanding an ambulatory care platform dramatically can help health systems improve financial strength by growing market share and geographic footprint, increasing patient capacity, and improving patient care.

Aligning with Physicians is Important to Your Mix

Bishop says physician alignment is a critical, strategic necessity. “We’re seeing physician practice mergers by specialty and a move toward physician-hospital joint ventures with larger, independent groups, as well as more hospital employment of physicians. A strong ambulatory platform drives growth for both models.”

Regent helps align hospital systems with physicians through development of specific service lines, such as orthopedics. “Identify the service lines that are important to have in the mix for your market,” advises Bishop. “Then you can target the physicians you require to better serve that community – whether it means orthopedics, cardiology or women’s health. One added benefit is that if the practice rotates out of a hospital employment arrangement, healthsystem and practice still share alignment via the surgery center joint venture. ”

According to the white paper, health systems that aren’t first to market may have trouble attracting the best resources. Physician recruitment is often politically sensitive for hospital systems, and yet, an ongoing, competitive system for recruiting and retaining the best talent is critical to gaining market share and competitive advantage. Health systems that hesitate, will lose talent to large, independent physician groups or to competing health systems, resulting in reduced potential for building out key specialties.

Chad Beste is a consultant with PBC Advisors and works with both hospitals and large independent physicians’ groups, including Illinois Bone and Joint Institute, a large, independent orthopedic practice in the Chicago area. “It’s a challenging issue because many large, successful practices may want to own and control their own ASCs,” he said. “However, there are advantages to partnering with a large health system.

“Every market is different,” Beste continues, “but more and more services are moving out of the hospital and into an ambulatory environment.  Large practices need to ascertain if they might be better off partnering with hospitals in return for enhanced security. Or, if I think I can build those services and deliver them to the community at a lower price than the hospital can, why wouldn’t I build them?”

Speed is of the Essence

Beste’s example is evidence that the largest physicians’ groups can certainly thrive on their own – and can successfully offer their own integrated webs of services. Says Bishop: “It’s basically an arms race for the large orthopedic practices and whether they’ll join you, another health system, or become successful as independents. Private Equity is rolling up  large gynecological and urological as well and represent at new competitor in the market. As a hospital system, you must be expedient to ensure alignment with the best MD providers for the long term.”

An outside partner has an advantage in bringing together hospitals and physicians, who very often have a history that has led to some mistrust.  Regent has developed a reputation as an objective third party with the expertise and neutrality to syndicate surgery centers – something hospitals find difficult to do for themselves.

General George S Patton stated, “A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.”  Today, the greatest threat to hospital success associated with a robust ambulatory platform is moving toward that strategy too slowly and finding that a competitor has already captured the surgeons you desired to target” Bishop reiterates.

Download Regent’s white paper here for more information on how to activate ambulatory strategy, align effectively with the physicians who are important to your marketplace, and move your own hospital system more aggressively toward value-based care.