Independent physicians who want to remain independent but who feel the need to be part of a larger organization in order to provide value-based care more efficiently might consider joining an independent physician association (IPA). The IPA offers independent practices more bargaining power but enables all of its members to remain autonomous in their daily practice management.
The AAFP defines the IPA as “a business entity organized and owned by a network of independent physician practices for the purpose of reducing overhead or pursuing business ventures such as contracts with employers, accountable care organizations (ACO) and/or managed care organizations (MCOs).”
Independent practices might be better equipped to participate in value-based care as part of an IPA. As a recent article in Medical Economics explains, the IPA can “help practices transition to value-based care by providing the administrative support, tools and negotiating leverage that comes with size.” The original intent behind the concept of the IPA was to focus on fee-for-service rates, but with the movement toward value-based care, IPAs are now transitioning to negotiating value-based contracts.
Though independent physicians may be understandably concerned about maintaining their independence while joining a larger group, AAFP emphasizes that “Such strategies also enhance physicians’ access to the capital and management resources necessary to pursue cooperative business ventures such as managed care contracts and direct health care services contracts with employers.”
AAFP outlines the many potential benefits for an independent physician joining an IPA, including many that will contribute to more effective and more efficient delivery of value-based care:
- Appropriate alignment of physicians’ financial incentives
- Efficiencies in practice administration and management
- Political influence within the medical and wider provider community
- Peer support
- Optimized facilities
- Enhanced ability to negotiate favorable contracts with other entities such as MCOs, ACOs, radiology, laboratory, and hospital systems
- Autonomy and local financial and care management control in managed care
- Improved services, including expanded hours, urgent care, outreach services for prevention, telephone triage, and follow-up expertise.