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Can Local Docs Work Together to Stay Independent?

Dr. Sepehr Sajjad of Crossroads Orthopaedic in Waterford thinks an Independent Physician Association could save private practice from a slow demise.

For Dr. Sepehr Sajjad, being part of an independent private practice has always been a dream. As a hand surgeon at , an independent medical practice in Waterford, he’s been able to make that dream come true. For many doctors though it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stay in private practice.

It used to be fairly typical for doctors to work in a private practice setting. But in recent years rising insurance costs, increases in overhead, and decreases in revenue have made it difficult for many physicians to stay in private practice.

Primary care physicians and surgical specialists, for instance, have seen their incomes drop by 10 percent and 8 percent respectively. Indeed, the only people working in the medical field who have seen an increase in salaries in recent years are professional and technical workers.

Given that the average physician employs at least three full time support staff and has overhead expenses that amount to 60 percent of the practice’s total revenue, it’s small wonder that many physicians are walking away from private practice.

Movement To Hospitals

In 2002, 70 percent of doctors worked in private practice while 20 percent were employed by hospitals. By 2009, more than half of all physicians were working for hospitals and just 45 percent were in private practice. Sajjad thinks that an Independent Physician Association (IPA) could change that.

An IPA is a physician-led, not-for-profit organization that brings a team approach to healthcare delivery. Sajjad said membership would be open to any physician in private practice, along with physician assistants and nurse practitioners too.

Sajjad sees the IPA as a way “to allow independent physicians to stay independent and to help stop the bleeding that we’ve seen.”

By forming their own network, Sajjad said, physicians can pool resources and find strength in numbers that would give them greater buying power. An IPA is able to buy medical and office supplies in bulk, for instance, which helps independent private practices reduce their operating costs.

As members of a larger network, physicians would also realize savings in the cost of malpractice insurance and casualty insurance. Patients would benefit too, because the IPA could also implement electronic medical records to allow for integrated patient care.   

Other Examples

It’s worked in other places. An IPA established in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island currently has about 220 members, Sajjad said. Judging from the number of people who’ve attended informational meetings that Sajjad has held locally, such a number wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility in New London County.

Within the past three months, Sajjad has held two informational meetings about the benefits of establishing an IPA.

“We’ve had over 40 private physician groups attend, from primary care to subspecialists, representing over 100 physicians interested in joining,” Sajjad said. The last meeting, he added, was standing-room only.

To join an IPA, members have to complete an application packet and sign the participating provider contract. Membership dues are a minimal $100 for the first year but, based on estimates from the Long Island IPA, Sajjad predicts that the cost savings of being part of an independent network would amount to tens of thousands of dollars a year.

“It gives us a stronger voice and enables us to coordinate care better,” says Sajjad.  

The next meeting on the topic will be January 8. For information, contact Dr. Sepehr Sajjad at (860) 440-0688.

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