Why Be in Private Practice?
The issue of contract management companies and hospital-employed physicians has been in the recent news with the debacle at Summa. Summa Emergency Associates are a self- governed group of physicians and extenders that have cared for Summa emergency departments for 45 years. They treat their caregivers fairly, and decisions are made by the physicians caring for the patient which has the best interest of the patient at heart. In contrast, with contract management companies and hospital-employed physicians, decisions are made by “bean counting” administrators who are only concerned about the financial performance of their company (hired physicians). These administrators are far removed from patient care and know more about what metrics need to be met to get their lucrative salaries and bonuses than what needs to be done to provide quality care for patients. The physician’s ability to provide caring and top-quality care is compromised by their “boss” when profits, bonuses, and metrics become the major component of an organization.
Physicians went through medical school and residency training with an oath to care for patients. We didn’t care to learn about the financial side of medicine, but instead spent countless hours practicing the art of medicine. Most all of us still place the patient first in our daily focus.
I am blessed to be in private practice. Patient care comes first in my office, and I am so proud that I have an experienced staff that shares my attitude. We aren’t in the fanciest building on the busiest street, but we serve the community without an outside boss pressuring us to meet certain metrics to collect the top tier salary. Answering the phone all day in person keeps us connected to our patient needs. Providing my cell phone number to my surgical patients minimizes emergency room visits and gives them the comfort to know we are there to help. I get very few calls each year because my staff prepares them for their treatment plan and takes the time to answer questions at each visit. In-office physical therapy provides our patients with a consistent care plan and gives them access to their caregivers each time they step into our office. Most importantly this comes at a cost savings to our patients, as insurance companies have shown us the data confirming that our total cost for providing care at Blanda Orthopedics and Physical Therapy is much lower than the average in northeast Ohio. Part of this is due to our low complication rate and unnecessary visits to emergency departments. We have an on-site billing team that can answer your questions and make sure you understand your costs. X-rays, injections and office visits done at my office are incredibly cheaper than hospital-based physicians that have no control over their charges. We don’t have a facility fee.
Most importantly, being in private practice allows me to practice medicine the way my 32 years of experience have best taught me. I don’t need to spend two extra hours a day entering loads of data into a computer that have no impact on patient care but only feeds into the metrics to appease insurance companies and the “boss.” Nobody is making money off of the cost-efficient quality care I provide to you. I want to be able to keep your expenses low. I don’t spend hours deciding how to outmaneuver my competition or how to get better reimbursement from insurance companies. Instead, I am thankful I can spend that extra time caring for you, the reason I choose to practice medicine.
Some may say I am a dying breed; the independent practitioner no longer fits in with corporate medicine. That is the same thing that was said about the small family based farmer as they were coerced to sell out to corporate farmers. It was said small farmers couldn’t compete, they didn’t have the technology nor were they ruthless enough to spray poison on food to grow more. But look what the food industry has done to our societies health. If I want clean healthy food, I go to the local farmers market. Small sustainable farmers are making a strong comeback.
One ex-administrator would say in contract negotiations with physicians, “get on our bus or the bus is going to run you over.” That bus has flat tires and has run astray. Independent physicians need to continue to be there for our patients. I will stay in private practice and remain independent because I know you, the consumer, can recognize what is best for you. Our paths may cross at the farmers market.
Joseph Blanda, MD