Evolving Medical Reimbursement Model Forces Tough Choices as Maine’s Largest Orthopedic Group Affirms its Independence
OA Centers for Orthopaedics announced today it has opened a new medical and physical therapy office in Brunswick at Brunswick Station. The new office has a complete orthopedic clinic and physical therapy center and with initial staff of 15. The new Brunswick office marks OA’s third satellite office to open in the past four years. Patients requiring surgery will be referred to Mid-Coast Hospital or to OA’s main office in Portland, which features a state-of-the-art outpatient surgery center in addition to clinical, diagnostic imaging and physical therapy services.
Simultaneously, OA announced that five of its six joint replacement specialists, all of whom provide hospital-based orthopedic procedures, plan to join Maine Medical Partners by the end of the year.
“Rapid changes in the medical reimbursement model, driven by healthcare reform, have forced difficult choices within our practice,” said John Wipfler, CEO of the 230-person Maine orthopedic center. “Our satellite office strategy, in combination with our Portland surgery center, continues to be a successful independent practice model even in the face of declining reimbursements and increasing expenses for procedures. Over the past few years we have had our strongest financial performance ever. On the other hand, several of our joint replacement colleagues believe they are better served by moving hospital-side to Maine Medical Partners, a division of Maine Medical Center.”
The regional trend towards hospital employment of physicians continues unabated. More than 70% of all medical doctors in Maine are in an employment relationship with a hospital or federally qualified health center (FQHC), according to the Maine Medical Association. Ten years ago that number was less than 15%.
Earlier this year, OA joined with three other specialty medical practices to form Maine’s largest independent practice association or IPA. Members of the Maine Specialty IPA work together to better manage cost issues and improve the delivery of patient care. The IPA enables physician practices to maintain their independence in a challenging healthcare environment that encourages hospital consolidation of physician services.
“OA remains resolutely committed to maintaining an independent physician practice,” said Dr. Douglas Brown, an orthopedic surgeon and co-founder of OA Centers for Orthopedics. “While some of our joint replacement colleagues – who deliver the majority of their services at the hospital anyway – have found it to be more advantageous to move to Maine Medical Partners, the majority of our orthopedic specialists continue to believe patient services are delivered more cost effectively and at a better quality in a focused, independent practice environment.”
Dr. George Babikian plans to join Maine Medical Partners on September 1, 2011, while Drs. Donald Endrizzi, Michael Becker, Brian McGrory and Peter Guay plan to join Maine Medical Partners effective January 1, 2012.
“Despite the departure of a few of our surgeons, OA will continue to provide the complete range of specialty orthopedic care - including joint replacement,” affirmed Wipfler. “We are optimistic about our future, and we feel confident that our strategy is designed to meet the challenges of a difficult era in health care. ”