Onboarding for Practice Acquisitions

onboarding for practice acquisitionsBy: Allison McCarthy, MBA

CVS President Larry Merlo recently touted strong 2015 returns in the retail sector of the company’s business portfolio.  But, he cautioned that the original 2017 projections may get scaled back to focus on CVS’ integration with Target. CVS recognizes attention needs to be dedicated post-acquisition to ensure return on investment.

Do hospitals and health systems put that same laser focus on the integration of the physician practices they acquire?  Significant time, energy and resources seem to go into the due diligence process – to decide on moving forward with the acquisition.  From my observation, attention really wanes once the deal has been made.  But, the reality is that the real work is just beginning.

During a recent webinar provided by the Onboarding and Retention member group, the panel of onboarding professionals shared that they were assigned only to physicians and advanced care providers recently recruited to build a new practice.  In their organizations, responsibility for post-acquisition integration was the responsibility of business development or practice management.  So, while these organizations have dedicated onboarding professionals – who are managing the integration of new recruits – they have yet to take advantage of their expertise for practice acquisitions.

Just like any other business purchase, post-sale efforts with physician practices needs that same planning and management rigor – staging out all the areas that require attention and focus – with milestone dates and accountabilities. These would include:

  • Operations – staffing, policies and procedures, IT systems, purchasing
  • Clinical practice – initiatives around Triple Aim, clinical care protocols, referral patterns
  • Financial – billing, cash management, collections, contracting
  • Marketing – patient and physician communication, brand identity and performance, digital strategies and more

Whether it’s a field-of-dreams syndrome, lack of management resources, know-how, or all of those, there is discipline missing in our practice integration efforts.  Just as management teams are pulled together to develop a new service line, convert an IT system or manage new construction, we need similar approaches when acquiring and integrating physician practices.  Otherwise, the promises made by the hospital or health system to “improve the lives” of these physicians are broken.  And the hospital or health system runs the risk of losing the physicians they worked so hard to acquire and the return on investment is not fulfilled.  We adopt these disciplines in other areas – why do we neglect them when investing in a physician enterprise?


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