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Strategic partnership advantages: Alliances formed between medical professionals 'wave of the future'

Article-Strategic partnership advantages: Alliances formed between medical professionals 'wave of the future'

Dr. Rosen
In the current healthcare environment dominated by concerns over cost and the burden of managed care bureaucracy, strategic partnerships offer a sound business model for physicians seeking to broaden their services without diluting their expertise. These partnerships benefit not only medical professionals and their staff, but also their patients, because they provide a broader range of services without sacrificing focus and quality. This business model has succeeded because it provides convenience for patients and facilitates communication between physicians; the referral process is two-way and constant.

What is a strategic partnership? Strategic partnerships are par for the course in every industry except in medicine; but forward-thinking doctors see that this is the wave of the future. Strategic partners in the healthcare field, specifically in cosmetic surgery, are able to provide their patients a wider variety of services and lower their practice's overhead by sharing certain costs.

How to form strategic partnerships Such partnerships must always be based upon a commonality of interest. For example, dermatology practices and medspas can complement the practices of more surgically-based aesthetic services centers. A patient undergoing laser resurfacing one year may return a few years later wanting a procedure with more lasting effects; if the dermatologist is aligned with an aesthetic surgeon, there can be a stream of referrals, in both directions. A suitable option for that type of arrangement is for the physician to act as an independent contractor for the medspa or other facility offering non-surgical rejuvenation. The employer provides overhead in the form of office space, marketing and research; the surgeon acts as an "employee" and works at a discounted rate.

Another logical alliance is between plastic surgeons and oncological specialists: plastic surgeons can provide scar removal or reconstructive services to patients recovering from cancer treatment.

Why enter into such a partnership? Sometimes strategic partnerships are based upon logistical need and convenience. Often it makes sense for complementary practices to share real estate and divide construction costs. Certain practices complement each other and can share facilities. A breast cancer center can benefit from partnering with a practice providing reconstructive surgery or with a radiology group. The costs of expensive technology such as MRIs and surgical centers can be shared. Some partnerships even share the cost of staff members or professionals, like anesthesiologists.

Referrals are another incentive for entering into such partnerships. Strategic partnerships offer doctors a way to create a constant stream of referrals, which is then reciprocated. Even if referrals may seem one-way (for example, post-mastectomy patients go to cosmetic surgeons for reconstruction and not the other way around), the good will and high standard of care such a partnership engenders increase the flow of referrals in both directions.

How do patients benefit? When partnerships share facilities, the benefits are manifold: patients can get procedures done in the same building, doctors can communicate quickly and easily face-to-face, less time is spent passing information from organization to organization. Instead of being shuttled from place to place, the patient receives coherent messages from his or her group of doctors in a timely manner. The psychological component is significant: Patients are more at ease in the "doctor's office" because they need only visit one location with familiar faces. Finally, and most importantly, referrals among caregivers are procedure-based.

What are potential pitfalls? As with any business relationship, it is imperative that all of the rights and liabilities are clearly spelled out. The medical practices should remain distinct in terms of insurance. Each relationship will have different needs and goals, and each item in an agreement should be negotiated: Will we share the expense of marketing our practice? Should we hire one receptionist? Like any business relationship, pay attention to the individual details of the contract in order to make sure all contingencies are covered.

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