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Some Referring Physicians Need To Grow A Spine

Posted Mar 04 2011 4:31am

It is no secret that my firm specializes in marketing challenger brands. They are not the largest medical center or hospital in the market. These challenger brands usually compete with the major academic medical center in the region: Penn Medicine, Mass General, and Duke Medicine, for example. Importantly, many of the hospitals my firm works with are the low cost, high value, high quality providers in the market. Tufts Medical Center in Boston is a great example of this.

I rarely use my blog to rant, but today I intend a full blown rant. Last weekend I saw an article in the MetroWest Daily News that sent me off the deep end. The title of the article was “Local medical practice now sending expectant mothers to Newton-Wellesley.” The premise of the article was that physicians near MetroWest Medical Center are making the decision to send patients to Newton-Wellesley (a competitor) for birthing despite the fact that MetroWest offers higher quality care at a lower cost! You see, Newton-Wellesley is part of the prestigious and expensive Partners Healthcare System which was founded by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Mass General Hospital. It is the Boston healthcare power house.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“In switching to Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Southboro Medical Group made clear it had no worries about MetroWest Medical’s safety, cost or satisfaction scores – in fact, the practice credited its longtime partner with quality care at a reasonable price.

The move rested instead on a less tangible but still influential factor: many patients’ belief that proximity to Boston means better care, even if surveys and measures do not back that up.

“It’s all perception,” said Joseph Nunes, administrator of Southboro Medical, which has offices in its namesake town as well as in Westborough, Framingham and Milford. “It was really something we did not want to have to do.”

So, this medical group made a switch away from the high quality, low cost provider after 30-years because of “perception.” Moms think they’ll get better care closer to Boston. What drives me crazy is that lack of courage these physician show! They aren’t willing to explain to patients how they’ll get amazing care at a terrific price at MetroWest. They’d simply rather take the path of least resistance. And because of that, these families will pay 12% more for vaginal births and C-sections. Everyone wants to talk about the high cost of healthcare; well, here’s one contributing factor: spineless physicians who aren’t willing to advocate for the highest quality care close to home! They aren’t willing to face the tough questions from their patients. They’d rather take the path of least resistance. After all, what’s an extra $900 for a C-section?

In my humble opinion, this is cowardice and fiscally irresponsible behavior. I am outraged – but not surprised. I’ve seen this kind of decision making from other physician groups. They tend to be risk adverse and fear having to explain their referral to the patient.  In truth, the only interest these physicians are serving is their own. They are making life easy on themselves. Yet they are driving up healthcare costs and failing to reward the hospital that has stepped up and found a way to deliver high quality care at a low cost. This makes absolutely no sense!

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer


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