The most common way that a physician practice group is absorbed by a hospital is through a method where physician owners and practice administrators keep an ongoing operation in place, essentially subjecting to less guidelines and oversight, but to assume some naming rights, some jurisdiction, as well as partnership for likely for potential future transaction.
As for the outright sale of a practice to a hospital, it may be achieved in several different ways. A hospital may purchase a practice’s tangible assets with physicians and staff as employees of the practice, whereby the unit is obtained as a separate entity. In another instance, the hospital may acquire the assets, physicians and staff to become employees of the hospital, in which the practice discontinues. As for unique circumstances, the staff becomes employees of the hospital, but the physicians remain separate.
A certain consideration should be made by physician groups as to the value of their practice to the hospital system. Because anti-kickback laws exist, the hospital cannot pay a physician group more than ‘fair value’ for their practice. Any payment that is beyond a certain amount could be considered a ‘kickback’ for services provided to the hospital. Also, keep in mind, the revenue generated by physicians for referrals outside of the practice itself are not considered in the valuation.
Another issue that comes from a practice purchase is that physicians are not relieved of their responsibilities. This is because the acquisition is commonly considered a separate operating division or profit center of the hospital. Consequently, the physicians compensation is still tied to the profitability of their previous medical practice. This provides troublesome if physicians are nearing retirement.
One last reminder, and a stark reminder of how this time may be different, is how the practice’s patients now can easily become part of hospital’s affiliated practice, especially with the advent of electronic medical records. In essence, the hospital now owns and operates all patient lists and records that have been accumulated by the practice group.
While I will leave you with the determination of whether it is better to sell, partner or lease with a hospital, MREA has established healthcare real estate professionals, accountants and attorneys to whom you have access. Contact us for our wide range of client responsibilities that incorporate business strategies with extensive real estate capabilities.