Physician Organization of Michigan launched to support independent MDs

University of Michigan Health System & Physicians’ Organization of Western Michigan team up; other partners sought

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - As health care reform, rapidly evolving technology and the struggling economy challenge physician group practices across Michigan, a new organization will offer a way for the state's doctors and doctor groups to stay independent and focus on what they do best: care for patients.

Yesterday in Grand Rapids, leaders from the University of Michigan Health System and the Physicians' Organization of Western Michigan announced the founding of the new Physician Organization of Michigan, or POM.

UMHS and POWM are the first two partners in the POM network, but they will actively seek more physician membership from across the state to join the new organization when it becomes fully operational in January.

As participants in POM, physicians and physician groups across Michigan will have access to resources, opportunities and support that will allow them to remain independent while adapting to the new health care environment.

"We're very pleased to be able to expand and strengthen our abilities to support the independent practice of medicine through this relationship," says Randall Clark, MD, president of POWM, an independent practice association which has 570 physician shareholders across western Michigan.

POM will aim to help all its participating physicians improve the quality of the care they provide to patients, monitor their patients' health more effectively, and reduce or contain the growth of health care costs 

Such efforts can help physicians meet new requirements set by federal authorities and private insurance firms. For instance, POM may assist physicians in gaining access to shared technology systems and a framework for measuring and improving the quality of the care they provide.

By helping independent physicians remain effective and efficient, POM will help preserve patients' ability to receive primary care in their local communities, and have access to the full range of specialty care available in Michigan. It will also enable physicians to stay current in their medical knowledge through continuing medical education opportunities. 

"This concept of the right care, at the right place, and at the right time fits perfectly with our health system's goal of serving the entire state, by being available for any Michigander who needs the advanced care that U-M physicians provide," says Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D.,U-M executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of UMHS.

UMHS includes a 1,600-member multispecialty physician group, made up of faculty from the U-M Medical School who practice at U-M hospitals and health centers, and at partner locations throughout the state. POM is the latest in a series of UMHS partnerships, which also includes the Pennant Health Alliance, a recently announced partnership among four western Michigan hospitals and UMHS.

Physicians, who participate in POM through their physician organizations, can choose to become a "Colleague in Care," which will ultimately give them full access to a clinically integrated network of physicians with an electronic health record system, support for business functions and marketing, and systems to track quality. In turn, each Colleague in Care agrees to meet standards for ongoing education, care quality tracking and reporting, and more.

Group practices of physicians have become the norm in recent decades, as multiple physicians band together to provide integrated clinical services and reduce overhead expenses in order to be more competitive in a challenging health care environment.  With the increased efforts of hospitals to acquire and control physician practices, many independent physician practices have organized themselves into organizations like POWM.

But the demands of modern health care regulations and incentive programs - such as the federal government's incentives for physicians to use electronic health record systems that require huge investments in computing technology - have landed physicians at a crossroads. Changes in how doctors are reimbursed for the care they provide, including major incentives offered by third party payers to help track care quality and demonstrate improvement, pose a financial challenge.

"The vision is that POM will offer independent physicians and medical groups access to information technology and administrative and clinical services they need to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing environment without the need for employment by a large system," says David Spahlinger, M.D.,executive director of the U-M group practice and senior associate dean for clinical affairs at the U-M Medical School.

Says David Silliven, who will become the executive director of POM, "The relationship between UMHS and physician organizations reinforces the mission that POWM has focused on for more than 20 years - to work for a healthier community and a more robust health care market."

POM will be based in Grand Rapids but plans to expand to include physician groups from all parts of the state.

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