University Hospitals is boosting its Akron presence with the purchase of several primary-care physician practices in the region.
The Cleveland-based health system recently acquired five doctor offices in the Akron area, said Dr. Michael Nochomovitz, president of University Hospitals Physician Services, which employs about 1,500 physicians throughout Northeast Ohio.
The recent deals add 21 doctors, several nurse practitioners and roughly 100,000 patient visits annually in the Akron region to University Hospitals’ physician practice network, Nochomovitz said.
“Certainly, this is a large cluster of primary-care physicians,” he said. “We’ve put a very large focus on our primary-care network.”
One of the practices — Children’s Medical Group Inc. in Akron — is led by a doctor who was next in line to become president of the medical staff at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Dr. D. Douglas Hackenberg, president of Children’s Medical Group, said the five-doctor practice opted to become part of University Hospitals after determining it needed to align with a larger partner to meet future requirements to monitor and measure quality of care.
University Hospitals includes Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital — Akron Children’s Hospital’s biggest rival.
Hackenberg had been vice president of the medical staff at Akron Children’s and was to take over the presidency.
But after he signed the deal to become an employee of University Hospitals, Hackenberg said, he stepped down from his leadership role at Akron Children’s.
He is, however, retaining his privileges to admit and see patients at the Akron pediatric hospital.
“Part of the newer bylaws at Akron Children’s prohibits a medical staff officer from having a financial conflict of interest,” he said. “I was disappointed, too. I like doing that kind of thing. I have a lot of good relationships over at the hospital that I certainly plan to maintain. I don’t plan on losing those just because of the changes we’ve made.”
In a written statement, Akron Children’s Hospital Executive Vice President Shawn Lyden said: “We’ve had a longstanding relationship with Children’s Medical Group and their patient families. And we look forward to continuing our relationship with them.”
Lyden said the medical staff bylaws outline a procedure for medical staff to vote in a new officer when a position is vacated. A replacement is expected by Sept. 1.
Hackenberg said he and his partners liked the University Hospitals’ model “because it really gave us a lot of autonomy in our office with day-to-day operations.”
The practice has talked with Akron Children’s about joining its primary-care network, he said, “but they had some things that they were pretty clear how they envisioned their growth and it wasn’t totally in line with what our vision was, which I get and certainly respect.”
After the deal goes into effect Sept. 1, Children’s Medical Group will retain its same location on East Market Street and its name, Hackenberg said. The practice’s signage will add the “Rainbow” name.
Patient families still will be able to choose where they seek hospital services, Hackenberg said.
Nochomovitz said physician practices increasingly are interested in joining with the health system, which added about 75 doctors last year.
Other Akron-area practices that recently agreed to become part of University Hospitals include Fairlawn Internal Medicine, Ghent Family Practice, Internal Medicine Specialists in Cuyahoga Falls and Copley Medical Group, Nochomovitz said.
Financial terms of the deals weren’t disclosed.
“We’re definitely seeing increased interest in alignment with the organization,” he said.
Across the region and the nation, hospitals increasingly are acquiring physician practices.
Many doctors locally and nationwide have been seeking hospital employment in recent years to ease malpractice rates, lighten their administrative duties and increase their reimbursements. Hospitals, in turn, gain a stronger referral base for patients by strengthening their physician affiliations.
Since 2002, the percentage of doctors employed by hospitals has grown by 32 percent to 212,000, according to the 2012 edition of the AHA (American Hospital Association) Hospital Statistics. About 20 percent of doctors are hospital-employed.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.