Doctors banding together in new Mercy venture 53 physicians under contract to provide services

Efficiency is objective

Hospital investing up to $14 million in managed-care unit

November 01, 1995|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,SUN STAFF

Mercy Medical Center is investing up to $14 million in a new doctors' organization that aspires to become a major source of health care for patients in the Baltimore area.

Maryland Personal Physicians Inc. begins operations today with 53 primary-care doctors and contracts to care for the subscribers of many insurers.

The company is similar to several other hospital-affiliated organizations that have been created to meet the needs of managed-care insurers, which rely on primary care doctors to coordinate patients' treatment.

"We see MPPI as an innovative response to the health-care reform movement," said Sister Helen Amos, Mercy's president.

Mercy initially will own 100 percent of the company, but doctors are expected to eventually acquire 50-percent ownership. While Mercy appointees will control the board, doctors will manage the business. Dr. George Lowe is chairman, and Dr. Neal Friedlander is president and chief executive officer.

The leaders of Maryland Personal Physicians say it will help make doctors more efficient by providing them with centralized administration and billing, and make them more marketable to managed-care companies. Doctors who invest in the company also stand to share in the profits.

Mercy, which operates a 285-bed hospital in downtown Baltimore, also will profit from the new company. Although the doctors in the new company will refer patients to a variety of hospitals as needed, Mercy stands to gain a good share of admissions.

Patients also will benefit, Mercy officials said.

BDoctors, rather than insurance companies, will retain control over medical decisions. Patients whose employers change insurance companies will be able to continue seeing the same doctors, because Maryland Personal Physicians will have contracts with a large number of insurers, Dr. Lowe said.

Health care "should be seamless" for the patient, he said.

Officials of the new company describe a bright future, asserting that it is "positioned to be a dominant primary-care provider in central Maryland."

The company expects to be serving 100,000 patients by the end of this year and 150,000 patients by the end of 1996. The company currently is negotiating with 23 more doctors and may be able to add 18 sites to the 24 locations where patients can receive medical care today.

Whether the company can continue to add new doctors and grow is by no means certain. With demand for their services increasing, good primary-care doctors can sign on with other doctors' organizations, hospitals and HMOs.

Dr. Scott Rifkin, a founder of a physicians' company called Doctors Health System, said doctors need to join groups. But they must carefully weigh the benefits of an organization such as Maryland Personal Physicians, which will be at least 50-percent owned by Mercy, against the benefits of a largely doctor-owned organization such as Dr. Rifkin's.

"What you're seeing is a huge consolidation of physician practices," Dr. Rifkin said.

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