SOURCE: ECG Management Consultants

ECG Management Consultants, Inc.

December 03, 2015 10:00 ET

Integrated Academic Health Systems Outperform Less Integrated Peers, ECG Study Finds

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwired - December 03, 2015) - Academic medical centers with highly integrated health systems and physician organizations tend to outperform AMCs that are less integrated, according to a study conducted by ECG Management Consultants. The report, titled Are Integrated Academic Health Systems Better? A Study of Organizational Design and Performance, uses empirical data and insights from 104 AMCs to assess the linkage between integration and measurable performance.

"There's always been speculation about whether the way an academic health system is organized relates to how it performs," explained Christopher Collins, ECG Principal and lead author of the white paper. "This study tried to separate fact from fiction."

The study notes that while AMC executives generally acknowledge the value of having a highly coordinated clinical enterprise, few have taken the steps required to achieve a meaningful level of integration. While organizational politics and culture often stymie efforts to promote collaboration, uncertainty about its merit -- specifically, whether a more integrated clinical delivery system provides tangible benefits to an AMC -- tends to be the biggest barrier.

That's the dilemma that ECG, a national consulting firm working exclusively with healthcare providers, endeavored to resolve.

Using insight from hundreds of teaching hospitals, faculty group practices, and medical schools, ECG's study assessed the degree of integration at selected academic health systems and compared them based on five primary areas of performance: reputation, quality of care, finances, research funding, and resident program ranking. The more integrated systems scored higher than the less integrated systems in four of the five categories, and based on an overall composite score, performed 9% better than the less integrated group.

"AMCs are difficult to categorize and compare given their wide variation in design," Collins acknowledged. "But the results, grounded in empirical data, gave us answers -- the higher performers have a more integrated approach to their clinical business."

The study comes at a time when academic health systems are under increased pressure to show that they provide high-quality care at an appropriate cost. AMCs' inherent complexity -- balancing clinical care, teaching, and research as well as the dynamics of a teaching hospital, medical school, and faculty group practice -- and interconnected nature make the need for collaboration even more imperative.

"The potential combined power and value of major teaching hospitals and faculty group practices is unmatched in the market, but they need to behave as a single health system to be market leaders," Collins said. "The market will not wait for them."

ECG's report supports the widely held belief that the more a clinical enterprise is strategically, financially, and otherwise aligned, the better the results for the entire AMC. In addition, it substantiates that the opportunity cost of not building a more integrated academic health system will be high and will have a direct adverse impact on the AMC as a whole.

Download a copy of Are Integrated Academic Health Systems Better? A Study of Organizational Design and Performance at For more information about the study, contact Susan Arnold at 303-841-7774.

About ECG
ECG is a strategic consulting firm that is leading healthcare forward, using the knowledge and expertise built over the course of four decades to help clients see clearly where healthcare is going and to navigate toward success. We work as trusted, professional partners with hospitals, health systems, medical groups, and academic medical centers across the country. We thrive on delivering smart counsel and pragmatic solutions to the critical challenges facing healthcare providers. Client success is our primary objective. ECG's national presence includes offices in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.

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