Texas company to provide Southeast's ER with doctors

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Texas-based company has been hired to provide physicians for SoutheastHEALTH's emergency department and hospitalist program.

The hospital has entered into a multiyear agreement with EmCare Inc., which provides physician staffing at more than 500 hospitals in 40 states. The company provides doctors to seven hospitals in Missouri, including most recently Center Point Medical Center in Independence, Mo., said David Copple, vice president of business development for EmCare.

Southeast currently employs 12 emergency room physicians and nine hospitalists, who care for patients during their stay at the hospital. Those doctors will be offered contracts with EmCare, said Dr. Robert Sarama, interim chief medical director.

They'll have the opportunity to be employed by EmCare at Southeast or work for EmCare as independent contractors, he said.

"Throughout the United States, health care is getting more and more complex, and our ability to deliver it in the most effective and efficient manner is getting to be stretched," Sarama said.

EmCare was selected after a three-month search when the three largest companies that provide emergency physician services were considered with input from Southeasts' physicians, said Sarama, who has worked with other services like this at other hospitals throughout his career.

A proprietary software system used by EmCare's physicians that will be compatible with the hospital's soon-to-be-installed electronic medical records system is one of its biggest benefits, hospital officials said.

"Besides his own judgment, that doctor has the backup of evidence-based medicine that's proven to be effective across the country," Sarama said. "Then when the decision is made, automatically a list of what is considered best practices and evidence-based orders are sent electronically and we get things much quicker than we can do by hand."

Other benefits include economy of scale, the ability to learn from other institutions and reductions in physician recruitment costs, hospital officials said.

Cape Girardeau physician Dr. Eric Morton, who is not employed by either Cape Girardeau hospital, said he is worried about the quality of patient care at Southeast under the new arrangement.

He's worked with some emergency room physicians and hospitalists at Southeast for nearly 20 years and during that time built a relationship with them that will now be lost, he said.

"The people that are going to be calling me, I don't know who they are. I don't know how they were trained. I don't know how adept they are or how good their clinical skills are. It leaves me with a level of discomfort and, I hate to say, fear," said Morton, a physician at Women First. "I will be much more nervous about their evaluations."

Morton said the physicians that work for staffing companies like EmCare are typically transient and may only be in the community for a short amount of time.

EmCare will use the same staffing model used by the hospital and work to have physicians who stay in the community, Sarama said.

"The idea of having a revolving door doesn't make business sense. It makes no quality sense," Copple said.

He said EmCare has 40 board-certified physicians residing in Missouri and more than 100 with Missouri medical licenses working for the organization throughout the country. The company also has a 97 percent retention rate with its physicians.

Baylor Medical Center in Dallas was the first hospital to partner with EmCare for emergency services nearly 40 years ago, Copple said. Demand for the company's services have been growing in recent years and it's branched out to also provide anesthesia and radiology services to hospitals as well.

Jim Limbaugh, vice president of planning and business development at Southeast, called the hospital's partnership with EmCare an upgrade, but noted those areas were already performing well. About 40,000 people visit Southeast's emergency department each year, Limbaugh said.

The efficiencies gained by hiring EmCare will help the hospital provide more value to patients, Sarama said.

"The goal of Southeast is to be the value provider for Cape Girardeau," he said. "We know a number of people, about a third, leave Cape Girardeau for medical care. Southeast wants to be on the leading edge of bringing those people back."

Nurses and other support staff in the emergency services department will continue to be employed by Southeast.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

1701 Lacey Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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