How IPAs Can Help Private Practices Survive And Thrive

January 06,2017

The one thing that’s a constant in healthcare today is change.

Change is really hard. As humans we’re wired to want stability. We cling to people and processes that are familiar. Any type of change creates stress and begs the question, “What does it mean to me?”.

Private practice physicians today are faced with increasing regulations, greater administrative demands and confusing reimbursement systems that can get in the way of healing patients, leading to longer hours, declining income, less job satisfaction and more stress. As a result, many have had enough and are opting for institutional employment.

In a 2015 independent physician outlook survey, physicians were asked the question, “If you could maintain your independence as a profitable and sustainable medical practice, would you prefer it to being employed by a larger healthcare institution?” Despite the intense pressures facing private practitioners, 73% of respondents said they would prefer to not sell their practice. (1)

What would your answer be to that question? If you embrace your autonomy and believe in the important role that private practices have in the communities they serve, an affiliation with an Independent Practice Association (IPA) is a viable option to consider. What started years ago as a defensive mechanism for private practitioners to compete with group practice- based HMOs, IPAs today represent an offensive strategy to preserve independence while eliminating the isolation, administrative burdens and risks associated with private practice and providing a strategic “road map” to keep private practice relevant in the marketplace.

Benefits Of Joining An IPA

There are several types of IPAs with different structures, services, and goals. Some are purely contracting entities while others offer affiliated practices access to additional tools, technologies, and services to improve care coordination and practice efficiency. Given the shift from volume to value based reimbursement, IPAs that are fully integrated with a care management infrastructure and have experience managing risk-sharing contracts are optimally positioned for these new payment methodologies. Depending on the structure of the IPA, some of the benefits that physicians can realize include:

  • Retaining autonomy while gaining support and leverage as part of a larger organization
  • Greater contract bargaining power because of the IPAs size and breadth of services
  • Network marketing and contract management services
  • Increased revenue and new patients from the IPAs portfolio of health plan contracts
  • Access to tools and technology to streamline workflow and improve communication and care coordination
  • Coding, credentialing, and documentation support to reduce your administrative burden
  • Care management services for managing behavioral health and chronic medical conditions

Change is today’s reality in healthcare. As business sage Peter Drucker once said, “The most effective way to manage change is to create it”. A winning IPA can create change and transform local healthcare. If, like the 73% of survey respondents, you would like to maintain your independence, affiliating with a fully integrated IPA can help you to survive and thrive

Coming Next: On The Road To Clinical Integration

Scott F. Kronlund, MD, MS
President & Chief Medical Officer​
Northwest Physicians Network

  1. Physician Migratory Patterns, “Threats to Independence and Implications for the Future”, ProCare Systems, 2015

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