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Hospital-Physician Relationships: 3 Trends to Watch for in 2021

What will the new year bring for hospitals and their relationships with physicians? The Ludi Team hosted a webinar to discuss this and some of the key trends to watch for in 2021. I was joined by my friends Devin Carty of Martin Ventures and Wellvana Health along with Opal Greenway of Stroudwater Associates.

1. Value-Based Care Will Gain Speed

We’ll see an acceleration of value-based programs, more than what we’ve experienced in the past – partly because the new Biden administration will champion them. Moreover, providers have learned that those organizations with value-based care programs were not hit as hard financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, so it makes sense to invest in them now. With that said, such an acceleration is unlikely to touch rural hospitals given their unique set of challenges.

2. The Hospital Relationship with Physicians Will be More Important Than Ever

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the level of burnout physicians experience will continue to increase. As a result, hospitals will have to rethink the way they approach their physician alignment strategies. Physicians are going to start demanding better, in terms of their compensation, resources and schedules. In regard to physician pay, hospitals should take note that CMS increased the Medicare Physician Fee across the board by 3.75% – punting the decision for the next administration.

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has been really hard on front line providers, including physicians. Many doctors are burned out to a greater extent and their relationships with hospitals are under strain. This year, they will have more options for employment if desired though, as hospitals, health plans, pharmacies, private equity firms and other partnerships have increased recruiting efforts. We’ll see many physicians picking an organization or partner that they want to associate with based on their own priorities, too. As a result, new models will emerge and thrive. For example, Wellvana, is a model that keeps independent physicians independent by providing them with the support, infrastructure, resources and technology they need to succeed in a risk-based world.

3. TeleHealth, Digital Health and Automation Will Continue to Disrupt Our Industry

The “already hot” virtual health trend will continue in 2021 and beyond. In fact, the ability to deliver care in multiple venues (hospital, home, virtual) will likely grow throughout the country, because meeting patients where they are is vital. Moreover, hospitals will examine how to take service lines for higher risk patients (e.g., oncology, diabetes, etc.) and move them closer into the home through the plethora of new companies offering to assist in these areas.

In addition, hospitals have very quickly stood up business office solutions during COVID that have changed the game. This includes automation that makes it easier for the patient to navigate the financial aspects of care delivery, such as front desk operations, scheduling and patient registration. We’re likely to see much more of this. Automation will also continue to play a key role in physician contract and compensation processes, too. Why? Because it will be critical for hospitals to better track their total physician contract spend (a key financial metric for provider organizations) and, at the same time, eliminate unnecessary administrative burden on their medical teams where they can.

Want to learn more about this topic? Check out the physician payment trends we identified in our research with HFMA.

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