Recognizing common values when choosing a physician partner has become increasingly important, said Tommy Bohannon, divisional vice president at Irving, Texas-based Merritt Hawkins and Associates, a professional physician recruitment firm that specializes in matching job-seeking physicians with opportunities. “The whole concept of a good fit: That’s what we’re seeing our clients focus more on,” said Bohannon. “It’s no longer questions like, ‘Do you do this procedure? Do you do that procedure? Are you okay with this frequency of calls?’ It’s more like, ‘Are you going to buy into the philosophy of the group?’ It’s become more about making sure that [physician partners] have the same goals.”
Explore This IssueJanuary 2014
Once partners are found, structuring a partnership can be more science than art, as models range far and wide. In limited liability partnerships or corporations, physician partners typically share in profits, but the division of those profits can vary based on the number of shares a physician holds in the corporation or on a productivity formula designed to reward physicians who yield the largest gains for the partnership—or see the most patients.
Likewise, physician partnerships may be structured differently in their approach to practice management. At Northwest ENT and Allergy Center, physicians divvy up administrative work among them while still maintaining ample time for clinical work.
In contrast, Dr. Vaughan formed an alliance with a physicians’ management group in California, Sacramento Ear, Nose, and Throat Surgical and Medical Group, to oversee electronic medical record management, handle human resources concerns, and perform billing, coding, and collections services for his practice with Dr. Fong. In return, Dr. Vaughan pays the group for its services and his practice becomes a cost center in their group.
Gaining in popularity are structures in which multi-physician private practices are integrated into larger hospital systems, making physicians employees of the hospital, said Jeff Milburn, an independent consultant with Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), a membership association for professional administrators and leaders of medical group practices based in Englewood, Colo.
“Working for hospitals [that are] looking for physicians has become the bulk of our business,” added Bohannon. “The market is moving away from physician-owned practices because it’s harder for physicians to make money that way; however, there are certain specialties where you can make a decent go of it in a private practice, and ENT is one of those.”
Cost and Other Benefits
Despite the work that’s involved in finding and forging a productive union with the right professional colleague, the benefits of partnership are multi-dimensional, ranging from cost savings to new growth opportunities for your practice.