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Vanguard aims to offer doctors the best of both worlds Medical group allows physicians to remain independent while sharing key resources

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Dr. Robert Eidus believes Vanguard Medical Group’s story will resonate with doctors who want to remain independent, rather than be employed by hospitals — but who are frustrated with the mounting bureaucracy and expense of running a medical practice.

When it was created in January 2012, Vanguard brought together three primary-care medical practices, with a goal of advancing patient-centered care.

Today, it has 20 doctors, and wants to reach 100 in two years, with plans to expand into specialty areas like cardiology and gastroenterology.  

Eidus, president, merged his practices with those of Dr. Thomas McCarrick and Dr. Arnold Pallay “because we realized that individually, we didn’t have a sustainable business model,” Eidus said. “We were working excessively hard, and we didn’t have any protection against external events.”

At the time of the merger, the practices already were recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance as patient-centered medical homes, meaning they had adopted best practices for patient care.

“We decided to join forces so that we would have more resources, but also so that we could apply those resources to improving the quality of care, improving patient satisfaction and reducing health care costs,” Eidus said.

Since the merger, Vanguard has “taken additional revenues and plowed them back into the practice, especially in the quality area,” Eidus said. Vanguard added a quality coach, analyzes its clinical processes to make sure they’re aligned with best practices and coordinates the care its sickest patients get from multiple clinicians.

As Vanguard brings in more doctors, “the most important thing is to find practices that share our values,” Eidus said. “Are they committed to quality improvement and patient satisfaction, and do they believe in using data and technology to improve what they do?”

That’s more important than a geographic fit, Eidus said of future acquisitions. Vanguard has offices in Cranford, Montville and Verona, and though it has 45,000 patients, it is a “tightly knit, clinically integrate organization,” he said.

Pallay, who directs Vanguard’s practice development, said his mission of recruiting doctors puts him up against hospitals that, in recent years, have been striving to hire more doctors.

But Pallay said Vanguard has an edge. “A lot of doctors are not looking to be owned or managed by a hospital,” he said. “A lot of doctors like to be independent and do their own thing. We are trying to hit that niche of doctors who don’t necessarily want to be owned and managed by a hospital.”

Pallay said joining Vanguard allowed him to “preserve a certain amount of independence and autonomy, and have a lot of input on what direction we were going.”   

Eidus said Vanguard’s mission is in sync with the Affordable Care Act, which is designed to both improve quality and reduce cost increases.

“The premium is on creating value,” he said. “You need to have systems, you need to have an organization and you need focus. If we work toward creating value, good things will happen for us.”

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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