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How different governance models may impact physician–hospital alignment

Burns, Lawton R.; Alexander, Jeffrey A.; Andersen, Ronald M.

doi: 10.1097/HMR.0000000000000214
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Background: Hospitals utilize three ideal type models for governing relationships with their physicians: the traditional medical staff, strategic alliances, and employment. Little is known about how these models impact physician alignment.

Purpose: The study compares the level of physician–hospital alignment across the three models.

Approach: We used survey data from 1,895 physicians in all three models across 34 hospitals in eight systems to measure several dimensions of alignment. We used logistic equations to predict survey nonresponse and differential physician selection into the alliance and employment models. Controlling for these selection effects, we then used multiple regression to estimate the effects of alliance and employment models on alignment.

Results: Physicians in employment models express greater alignment with their hospital on several dimensions, compared to physicians in alliances and the traditional medical staff. There were no differences in physician alignment between the latter two models.

Conclusions: Employment models promote greater alignment on some (but not all) dimensions, controlling for physician selection. The impact of employment on alignment is not large, however.

Practice Implications: Hospitals and accountable care organizations that rely on employment may achieve higher physician alignment compared to the other two models. It is not clear that the gain in alignment is worth the cost of employment. Given the small impact of employment on alignment, it is also clear that they are not identical. Hospitals may need to go beyond structural models of integration to achieve alignment with their physicians.

Lawton R. Burns, PhD, MBA, The James Joo-Jin Kim Professor, Department of Health Care Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. E-mail: burnsL@wharton.upenn.edu.

Jeffrey A. Alexander, PhD, is Professor Emeritus, Department of Health Management & Policy, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Ronald M. Andersen, PhD, is Wasserman Professor Emeritus, Department of Health Policy & Management, University of California-Los Angeles, California.

The authors have disclosed that they have no significant relationship with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

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