Physician practice acquisitions are one of the major large projects health system IT teams have undertaken in the past decade. Just as we started to think that the market for acquisitions was slowing down, the latest survey from McKinsey & Company shows quite the opposite. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted physician practice volumes and financials, and as the survey shows, about one third of the participating physicians are worried about their practices closing and are willing to partner with or join a larger health system.
At Stanford Children’s Health, our team has onboarded more than 15 practices in the past five years. Through this process, we learned that onboarding practices to our enterprise systems and network requires a robust, well planned, and multidisciplinary approach which includes strong change management skills.
A solid project management plan and team is necessary for each acquisition to meet tight deadlines, coordinate the activities of various vendors and external entities, and help with change management. Most acquisitions are very time sensitive and have legal deadlines that IT teams should adhere to, all while meeting set deliverables. For example, you need to ensure the new location – no matter how far from your main hub- should have the proper network installed, correct hardware ordered and imaged on time, and deployments and dress rehearsals are conducted prior to the full integration. These time sensitive activities and interdependencies require coordination across multiple teams, well integrated communication and collaborative decision making.
Change management is another big challenge during acquisitions. The project team should keep in mind that this is a major change for the joining practice. Not only are they going to be part of a large enterprise moving forward, their workflows, EMR system, policies, procedures and even roles and responsibilities of their employees will be different too.
It is crucial for IT teams to be transparent and upfront about the upcoming changes and help with expectation management.