February 6, 2019

Michigan Launches Independent Emergency Medicine Group Consortium

On November 5th, 2018, a group of over 50 leaders from 20 Michigan independent groups joined in the first ever Michigan Independent Emergency Medicine Group Consortium. The consortium was held at Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan and we were joined by EM guests from surrounding states. The afternoon was a collaborative opportunity to discuss the physician owned and managed model of practice that is important to us all. 

Michigan, like many other states, has seen physician-owned EM practices decrease as healthcare consolidation has driven employment of EM physicians by hospital systems and contract management groups. The executive team at Emergency Care Specialists, a large Michigan democratic group, realized the key to sustaining independence was to reach out to like-minded groups.

It took months to get this conference off the ground, a lot of leg work, cold calls, and walking into EDs to convince leaders to join the consortium. There is a lot of inherent mistrust between EM groups due to the regular turnover in contracts. Convincing everyone that this was an important event, that it was non-threatening, and that the challenges facing groups large and small are the same, was a tall task. 

We started the consortium off with the goal of having an open forum to discuss topics that impact all independent groups. We stressed again that the event was not a marketing, sales, or takeover exercise. There were some topics that couldn't be discussed due to anti-trust regulations. The format of the event was purposefully structured as a presentation and discussion exercise to stimulate conversation. While wary at first, interest and participation increased throughout the day. We had presentations geared towards highlighting the value of independence, how changes in the healthcare industry affect EM locally and nationally, current issues in reimbursement, EM workforce trends, quality and data, contract negotiations, and the changing model of EM with a look at the future of our specialty. There was excellent discourse on ways to collaborate in our common struggles. The success of the afternoon was capped off with an open bar of Founder’s beer and good food. Overall, feedback was positive and the consortium was a solid “first pass” at getting groups together.

Attendees agreed that the momentum started here should continue. There was broad interest in forming a state-wide group to vet issues important to independent groups.  Beginning in 2019, a group of leadership volunteers will strive to meet on a quarterly basis with the goal of finding common themes to improve and maintain our practice model. We’d like to continue to share challenges and solutions, investigate cost savings in infrastructure, pooling of resources, recruiting, collaborative efforts, and possible joint ventures or shared future projects. We also hope to hold an annual consortium for the larger group.

In summary, while this event was a lot of work, and there is much to do before we see results, it was an important first step in working together while maintaining the individuality of our practices. It is long past the time where independent groups should try to succeed in isolation when we can help each other so much.

John C. Throop, MD, MBA, FACEP

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