To help address what experts see as a looming and acute shortage of primary care doctors, HackensackUMC Mountainside has created the Mountainside Medical Group, a network of physicians who are employed by the hospital and practice at different locations in the community.
Montclair-based Mountainside, part of the Hackensack University Health Network, said seven doctors are currently treating patients at three of the group’s locations, and more physicians and offices will come on board in the coming months.
“Although it has been proven that primary care physician relationships promote wellness and improve quality of life, there’s also a documented shortage of such practitioners locally and nationally,” said John Fromhold, chief executive of HackensackUMC Mountainside. “The Mountainside Medical Group will help to alleviate that concern in our region and afford area residents the opportunity to build productive, long-term relationships with doctors who have exceptional clinical skills and a genuine interest in getting to know them.”
Fromhold said it may seem counter intuitive for a hospital to invest in primary care, which seeks to improve the “well care” of the patient population and thus “ideally will reduce hospital admissions.”
But, this new venture “is consistent with Mountainside’s long and distinguished history of adapting to changing times. The health care landscape has changed dramatically since our hospital was founded in 1891, yet we’ve successfully served multiple generations and become a hub for comprehensive care by keeping abreast of emerging local needs and medical advances,” Fromhold said.
Mountainside and the Hackensack University Health Network are among a number of hospitals statewide that are increasing the number of primary care physicians that they employ.
Health care is moving toward the “accountable care organization (ACO)” model, where hospitals and doctors get financial incentives from government and commercial payers if they can improve care and control costs. There’s a widespread view in the industry that for ACOs to work, primary care needs to be tightly integrated with the care provided by hospitals and other clinicians.
The Atlantic Health System, whose hospitals include Morristown and Overlook Medical Centers, is taking a different approach to strengthening primary care via Primary Care Partners, a large physician group that is owned by the doctors and affiliated with Atlantic’s hospitals. Headed by Dr. David Shulkin, vice president of Atlantic Health, Primary Care Partners has more than 50 physicians and is continuing to grow. Its physicians continue to practice medicine in their communities while getting the benefits and resources of a large practice.
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