Delphi Healthcare Partners: David Joyce, President & Chief Executive Officer

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The physician practice environment in the United States is changing. Most specialties face a physician shortage. The average physician age is increasing, and many who are nearing retirement are looking to reduce their call hours. Private practice physicians face increased administrative pressure with looming healthcare reform and reimbursement changes. These factors have created a unique environment and need for the services of companies such as Delphi Healthcare Partners.

Delphi is a contract physician staffing and management company. David Joyce, President and Chief Executive Officer, said the company contracts with about 400 physicians, with around 200 working full time, and nearly 50 healthcare professionals including nurses and technicians. Delphi contracts with hospitals that are facing a shortage of physicians for numerous reasons to provide specialty services in four areas–obstetrics, general surgery, orthopedics and intensivists. The organization’s primary clients are hospitals with more than 150 beds.

Attracting care providers

Joyce said when his company attends conventions, physicians will be lined up at their booth to find out more about Delphi’s opportunities.

“They are fascinated with this new service,” he said. “We are attractive to physicians because we take the business of providing care off their shoulders and let them focus on practicing medicine. We provide malpractice insurance, negotiate the contract with the hospital and provide billing and collections. They generally work 12 to 14 days a month, as opposed to 20 in private practice, and they make the same income.”

This work environment can allow some physicians to extend their careers. Joyce said as some physicians get closer to retirement, they “get tired of the rat race,” but at Delphi, they can practice medicine a few more years and not be burdened with running a business. He also said this shows through in Delphi’s physicians’ attitudes toward patients.

“Patients love the attitude our physicians have,” he said. “Their joy of practicing medicine really shows.”

Helping hospitals in a bind

Delphi signs three-year contracts with hospitals in need of providing specialists in one or more of their four specialty areas. One example he gave of how the service works is an early contract for OBs. A hospital had seven OBs, but for various reasons, suddenly ended up with only two. It was nearly impossible for two physicians to take call 24 hours a day. Delphi came in to fill the gap, and the hospital was able to recruit new physicians over the next few years. Once the hospital had seven physicians, they were able to take call again and function on their own.

Delphi is especially advantageous to hospitals that need assistance with filling call hours.

“Our obstetricians are always in the hospital,” Joyce said. “We are not at home waiting on a beeper call. We have delivered 10,000 babies and never had a malpractice suit.”

Saving hospitals money

Joyce said one major challenge Delphi faces is when hospitals assume the services are too expensive. However, he stresses that he can save hospitals money.

“Our first contract, back in 2004, was for intensivists at a hospital in Ohio,” Joyce said. “I estimated that the hospital would save $4.3 million in the first year. The administrator called me at the end of the first year and said they saved $4.8 million. “

One reason the intensivist service can save money is that hospitals only get paid for an average stay of five days in the ICU. However, a physician can get paid to see a patient in the ICU for as long as they are in the ICU.  With Delphi’s intensivists working full-time in the hospital, they are able to help the hospital reduce the average length of stay.

Other models have a slightly different set-up. For example, Delphi’s orthopedic services set up an office environment with nurses and staff to be able to continue follow-up care for patients.

Looking toward the future

Delphi Healthcare Partners was started in 2004 and has grown to have contracts with 45 hospitals.  Several of their contracted hospitals are using Delphi in two or more specialties.  “At a hospital in California, we have seven programs that account for 65 percent of all hospital admissions,” said Joyce.

Originally, Joyce said their services were used to provide care for indigent patients because the specialists were becoming reluctant to care for this patient population. “Now, two-thirds of our contracts are also taking care of paying patients,” Joyce said. “We are at hospitals where they just don’t have enough specialists.“

Joyce expects Delphi to continue growing and adding more contracts. He said the organization is adding resources in sales, risk management, marketing and quality.

“We continue to get more sophisticated. As hospital expectations go up, so too does our need for medical directors to monitor our physicians and ensure we are providing what the hospitals need and want,” he said.

As with all healthcare organizations, Delphi is watching healthcare reform and how it affects hospitals. All contracts added, so far, in 2011 have a physician shortage in one or more specialties and are unable to recruit quickly enough to provide effective care. The physician shortage is likely to get worse, and Delphi is poised to help solve the problem that will create.

-by Patricia Chaney

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