Alexian Brothers Health System (ABHS), a member of Ascension, the nation's largest Catholic and non-profit health system, is expanding its network of primary care physicians with the acquisition of a long-standing primary care medical group in suburban Chicago.
The Feb. 1 acquisition of The Medical Care Group, which includes a total of 20 internists and pediatricians at six locations, will increase access to primary care services for residents of suburban communities served by ABHS, said Kimberly Zimmermann, Chief Operating Officer of Alexian Brothers Medical Group (ABMG), a physician network owned and operated by ABHS.
The acquisition is the largest primary care medical group acquisition by ABHS in terms of the number of physicians and locations involved. The transaction reflects the system's focus on rapidly expanding its ranks of primary care physicians amid forecasts of a growing shortage of primary care physicians as more formerly uninsured Americans seek care after becoming insured under the Affordable Care Act.
"As our nation's healthcare system moves from paying for volume to paying for value, it will be increasingly important for all elements of the care continuum – hospitals, physicians and others – to work together more closely and collaboratively in regional clinically integrated systems of care," said Mark A. Frey, President and CEO of ABHS and Ascension Health Ministry Market Leader for Illinois. "This is the direction Ascension is taking in our Ministry Markets across the country."
The addition of The Medical Care Group expands ABMG's network of primary care physicians by more than a third and increases ABMG's total number of physicians to more than 200. ABMG now has 74 primary care physicians, including internists, pediatricians, geriatricians and obstetricians/gynecologists, and 28 primary care locations. ABMG also owns and operates seven immediate care/occupational health centers and several specialty practices, including the Alexian Brothers Neurosciences Institute and practices focusing on OBGYN oncology, breast care, cardiology, pediatric specialties and weight-loss solutions.
In addition to expanding ABMG's ranks of primary care physicians, the acquisition of The Medical Care Group will enhance the population health management capabilities of ABHS' clinically integrated network of healthcare professionals and facilities, Zimmermann said.
Founded in 1984, The Medical Care Group operates its own Independent Physician Association (IPA), which contracts with health insurance companies on behalf of its physicians to manage care for patients. The IPA's contracts cover about 3,000 lives in Chicago's suburbs. The Medical Care Group also provides care for many other non-IPA patients.
"Their ability to manage care for a population sets them apart from other private physician groups," Zimmermann said. "A lot of other groups join a hospital group or network and rely on them to help manage patient lives. This group does it all. They directly contract with insurance companies, and they have managed that care successfully. Their experience will provide a lot of value to us."
The Affordable Care Act has made population health management a key objective for ABHS and other healthcare providers. The law has fostered a shift in healthcare from the traditional fee-for-service, volume-based reimbursement model to a value-based model that emphasizes population health management, preventive care, quality and efficiency. Providers increasingly are looking to primary care physicians to play leading roles in the growing drive to deliver high-quality, cost-effective care for defined patient populations, and competition for high-caliber primary care physicians has intensified.
At the same time, "insurance company and government administrative and regulatory requirements have put a tremendous strain on medical group resources," said Joel Shalowitz, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.P., President and Chief Executive Officer of The Medical Care Group. "Further, new financing models and accountability for quality require physicians to partner with hospital systems."
To meet these increasing challenges, The Medical Care Group "sought an organization that would be a real partner but at the same time allow us to continue to make decisions about what we thought was best for our patients and practice," Shalowitz said. "After consideration of a number of systems, the logical choice was Alexian Brothers Health System. While most of our physicians were already on the staffs of its hospitals, it was really the Alexian mission and culture that were the deciding factors."
The Medical Care Group, which has been renamed Alexian Brothers Medical Care Group, has the capacity to take on new patients, Zimmermann said. The group's six locations include an internal medicine office and a pediatric office in Elk Grove Village, Ill., a pediatric office in Hoffman Estates, Ill., an internal medicine/pediatric office in Arlington Heights, and an internal medicine office and a pediatric office in Skokie, Ill.
Alexian Brothers Health System