How to Stay Competitive as an Independent Practice

Questions & Answers

In today’s world, health care is going through a transformation not only in how care is delivered but also on the business side that involves more mergers and acquisitions(M&A) of smaller, independent practices by larger health systems. With more M&As happening every day, it makes it that much harder for independent practices to do just that…remain independent.

With the help of an Independent Physician Association (IPA), independent practices are not only able to survive, but are thriving in an industry of larger health systems.

Steve Elliott, practice manager for Ponderosa Family Physicians, tells us how his practice is competing and succeeding in today’s ever-changing health care conditions.

Steve Elliott

Practice Manager

  1. What is the benefit, to a patient, of an independent practice vs. an Urgent Care or a system-owned?
    1. Continuity of care and significantly more well-rounded knowledge and information about the patient. (as opposed to an urgent care)
    2. Access to multiple health systems which affords us the opportunity to recommend the best care, facility or specialist depending on the patient’s need versus referring “in system” by a hospital owned practice.
    3. Physician morale and retention which leads to longer and more productive relationships with their doctor. We are able to meet the lifestyle needs of physicians which leads to greater overall satisfaction and longer retention. (as opposed to being directed by a health system)
    4. Lower cost as opposed to an urgent care or health system.
    5. Reduction in duplicate tests or services as opposed to an urgent care. We have a comprehensive record on the patient that shows us all services and tests done on that patient by our office or other offices or facilities.
    6. In many cases, quicker access to specialty care.
  1. How is your care and follow through different from larger, system-owned practices?
    1. We are more nimble and able to shift to changing needs quicker.
    2. We develop personalized relationships with patients
    3. Quicker access to specialists. We are not confined to a “system” network, so the wait for specialist services is almost always shorter.
  2. Some consumers might assume that since independent practices don’t have the monetary backing of a larger health system, that the technology and tools available is less than stellar? Can you speak to that?
    1. We have the best EHR for primary care in the country. It is responsive to industry trends and affords us the opportunity to be productive with population health management, care coordination, MIPS needs and many other industry initiatives. It is user friendly and much less cumbersome than some of the large system EHRs such as Epic.
    2. We also have robust reporting modules available to us through our EHR.
    3. We are affiliated with two large hospital systems and interface with them as well. Any patient visits or results from those systems get passed along to us electronically.
    4. Again, because we are not affiliated with one health system, if there is technology out there that is going to improve the care of our patient, we have the ability to choose our technology instead of a health system choosing it for us.
  1. In your own words, why should a patient choose an independent practice over a system-owned practice?
    1. Personalized service and long- term relationships
    2. Lower cost to the patient in the long run due to us not always having to use hospital-owned services and facilities.
    3. The ability to do what is best for the patient versus what is best for the “system”.
    4. More timely specialty care services. Our patients do not have to wait near as long for most specialty services.
  1. Finally, what are the top three strategies your practices implements to remain competitive?
    1. Providing excellent patient care and customer service.
    2. Staying on top of industry and networking trends through our ACO relationships as well as professional organization affiliations. Prioritizing patient care, workflows and insurance contracting accordingly.
    3. Nurturing an environment where physicians and staff can enjoy practicing medicine as well as the lifestyle they prefer.