Growing from IPA to ACO: How physicians can remain independent in the shifting healthcare landscape

Westbury, N.Y.-based Beacon Health Partners is an independent physician association that formed strategically to position itself to function in the changing healthcare environment after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed.

In 2010, when BHP was formed, there was a lot of uncertainty in healthcare. However, the IPA recognized the industry was moving towards a value-based approach, and in January 2012, BHP sent CMS a notice of intent to participate in the Medicare Shared Savings Program. Six months later, BHP, along with 88 other ACOs, were chosen for the program.Simon Prince

Simon Prince, MD, a nephrologist and president and CEO of BHP, believes the organization's ability to make decisions without the bureaucracy that sometimes plagues hospitals has helped BHP achieve success. "We can make human resources, care management and IT infrastructure decisions and execute on them quickly," says Dr. Prince.

The trust that BHP has created also helps the organization. "Decisions we make are vetted through physician committees and boards, which creates trust and makes the physicians more engaged," says Dr. Prince.

The learning curve to grow an IPA into an ACO is a steep one, but BHP has made great strides since the transition. BHP now has contracts with two large commercial payers — Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield — and is currently in discussions with other major payers in the market.

Although BHP physicians are staunch advocates of independent only success, Dr. Prince says BHP sees "value in the resources hospitals could bring to our patients, providers and payers."

To provide BHP with the means for building on early successes, on Oct. 6, the organization announced an agreement with Rockville, Centre, N.Y.-based Catholic Health Services of Long Island and St. John's Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, N.Y., creating an even partnership between the independent physicians and hospitals. Under the agreement, the BHP leadership team will remain intact, with Dr. Prince as the chairman of the board. 

"In two years I believe we've done a lot, and we've had a good amount of success," says Dr. Prince, "but we are just getting started." "We're very excited about the opportunities and feel we are well positioned for the future with a great team, infrastructure and this new strategic partnership."

More articles on ACOs:

3 lessons learned from MSSP ACOs in performance year 1
3 more Pioneer ACOs exit program
10 recently announced accountable care agreements

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