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A closer look at Chicagoland's independent 610-physician powerhouse: DuPage Medical Group

Physicians and other healthcare professionals strive to meet two goals: provide — and continue to improve on — quality of care and run a financially healthy business. To meet these goals, many physician groups have joined hospitals or health systems. However, DuPage Medical Group has taken a different path. The Downers Grove, Ill.-based multispecialty medical group remains independent and, over the past 20 years, has grown from eight physicians to roughly 600.

By the end of 2016, the group will employ roughly 610 physicians throughout all of its clinics, with at least 150 more to be added by the end of 2017, according to DuPage Medical Group President Paul Merrick, MD. In September alone,  the group acquired eight independent physicians and two clinics. The sheer number of physicians employed at DMG allowed the organization to treat more than 700,000 patients so far this year.

But what makes the group such a sought-after employer? DMG CEO Mike Kasper says it's the way they treat physicians, both inside and outside the group.

"Our mission is to serve as a non-employment alternative for physicians. We're a physician-driven organization. We want our physicians to work independently for their own satisfaction and well-being," says Mr. Kasper.

The physician-oriented model is what persuaded the group to join Illinois Health Partners, the 14th largest accountable care organization in the nation, comprised of healthcare organizations such as Naperville, Ill.-based Edward Hospital and Arlington Heights, Ill-based Northwest Community Hospital, along with 22 other organizations. According to 2015 data released by CMS, Illinois Health Partners maintained the lowest cost of care per beneficiary for any ACO in the Chicagoland area at $8,847.

"By involving ourselves with Illinois Health Partners, we're able to obtain a more complete view of patients and their medical history, leading to a better relationship between our physicians and patients," says Mr. Kasper.

The inclination to partner with like-minded organizations is reflective of the group's adaptability to changing trends in the industry, a cultural facet of the organization that has been a part of the group's philosophy since its founding in 1999. Dr. Merrick notes that one of those changes is the increase in Medicare patients and the streams through which the group obtains its revenue.

"Ten years ago, our primary source of revenue, about 90 percent, came from our physicians' services. Those services probably amount to about 60 percent now. The other 40 percent comes from the ancillary services we provide," says Dr. Merrick. To be successful in this new environment, Dr. Merrick says price transparency is key. "When it comes to Illinois, quality care and lower costs will have patients flocking [to DMG]," he says.

Despite changes in the industry, both Dr. Merrick and Mr. Kasper note there is no legislative solution that trumps a physician's ability to change their immediate environment and influence change in the larger arena of healthcare. Staying true to the ideals the organization was founded upon is, and will continue to make DMG an influential, non-hospital entity.

"While we hope to expand outside the Chicagoland area eventually, our commitment is to our physicians, our staff and our patients and the quality of care we can provide for them," says Mr. Kasper. "Having true authority and clinical autonomy is important [to us and to our physicians]."

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