Several years ago, a partner and I undertook a major leap of faith to become exclusively intertwined with the medical industry. With over 40 years of combined commercial real estate experience, looking back, we took some bold steps to immerse ourselves into this growing healthcare provider network.
In the beginning, we were witnessing tremendous demand from every medical network to expand ancillary service types and locales, and imaginations were certainly running wild. We became instant beneficiaries of this growth spurt and soaked up transactional experience and a command of the tenant mix and business components that were successful for a given medical office building or hospital system.
In just a few years, with changes occurring so rapidly, so dramatically, it is now difficult to talk ‘expansion’ with using the term ‘consolidation’ in the same sentence. This is not to say that medical groups are not expanding, it continues. As to where, you would not be surprised.
But this time, several hospital systems have been kind enough to request our perspective on the physician marketplace and their specific growth opportunities. Ultimately, these calls begin, and circle back to, our long standing commitment to physician groups, whereby equipping them with best potential business and real estate options in the marketplace.
But, recent dialogue suggests that hospitals are having a difficult time inducing established physician groups to become part of their system. There are several reasons, most of which revolve around healthcare reform as a general theme, but others tend to be more specific to the physicians’ professional future and their general discontent of employment.
Thus, we want to highlight the reasons some physician groups are saying “no” to hospital employment.
1. Some hospitals are at significant risk of hiring too many doctors. With too many doctors come too many competitive pressures for doctors to perform comfortably.
a. Doctors will need to prove their worth during the contract, especially if new groups are absorbed. The thought alone may jeopardize physician commitment.
b. Hospitals may struggle with financial issues relative to their business plans in the mid-2000’s, or with future obligations of regulatory nature.
c. Contracts may include, sometimes discreetly, clauses that pertain to early termination.
d. Sometimes Hospitals go through mergers or acquisitions of another that has the ability to affect physician relations with one or all.
2. The intricacies of how employees should be compensated by hospital systems creates an unfair advantage from one to another.
a. Hospitals have the advantage when implementing metrics to determine the highest profitability within practice endeavors.
b. RVU methods can be abruptly changed when given the uncertainty of less or greater government support.
c. Patient increases have the ability to overwhelm certain pratice areas, such as family practice, without compensation measures that adequately provide for such increases.
3. Seniority is perceived not to be an attribute within the hospital system.
a. Hospitalists have assisted in call duty challenges, but more often than not, the younger physician population is not enthusiastic about taking a tremendous call load and are voicing their concerns.
b. Hospital systems may not provide adequate measures to control call duty and patient volume, where private practices may employ these actions.
4. Physicians are accustomed to being in control of outcomes under their supervision.
a. Physician groups are quickly implemented into system and can become disenchanted in how their doctors, or staff, are being utilized.
b. Ancillary services may be a large component of a practice’s income, in which most are absorbed or non-negotiable when entering into a hospital contract.
c. With the advent of electronic health records, comes the hospital systems consumption of physician data into the coffers of a strategic, web-based marketing and patient assimilation network.
5. Non-compete clauses could take the most highly informed physician groups by surprise, especially if contracts are for a limited period of time.
a. A Hospital system made have affiliates, or may merge or acquire another hospital or network of physicians which effectively places additional limits on where a physician, or practice, may perform.
b. Upon the conclusion of a contract or severe downturn in economy, non-compete clauses can interfere with a physician, or practice group, whereas services are no longer needed and physicians may not partner or practice where they choose.
These are just a few of basic issues that come to our attention regularly within physician discussions of Hospital employment. Hospital systems have been fairly reactive and are tailoring their contracts to remedy such objections, but a certain stigma permeates throughout the physician public which has kept most conversations mute or placed to sidelines…for now.