For an explanation, one need look no further than thoracic surgeons Todd Weiser and Cynthia Chin, who left Mount Sinai Medical Center in January to join the White Plains Hospital Physician Associates.
“We were recruited by the administration to build a thoracic surgical program here,” said Weiser, director of thoracic surgery at the hospital. “One of the factors in me coming here was to build a program that rivals what we’ve done in New York City.”
So far, so good.
One year after hospital administrators launched the physician associates division, seven practices totaling 20 doctors have signed on, bolstering the hospital’s existing surgical capabilities.
“We think our reputation is very strong,” said Jon B. Schandler, president and CEO of White Plains Hospital. But, he added, “It’s also about having the services to back up that reputation – and doctors are critical to that.”
Schandler said the hospital has worked tirelessly over the past 25 years to update its facilities and operating rooms to be able to handle more complex procedures.
One important aspect of that, he said, is an upcoming renovation that will include a new six-story patient care building and five new operating room suites that will feature state-of-the-art and minimally invasive technology.
But at the end of the day, a hospital is only as good as its physicians.
“They want to practice in an environment where they can walk in the door and have all the infrastructure there to support them,” Schandler said.
White Plains Surgical Specialists, formerly known as Weber, Weber and Yee, last August became the first practice to join the physician associates group.
“What really put us over the edge is, I think private practice is really changing in the community,” said Kaare Weber, an endocrine surgeon and associate medical director of surgical services at White Plains Hospital.
Facing higher expenses and uncertainty over health care reforms, Weber said his practice’s options were limited: they could have joined a large academic medical center, a multispecialty practice such as WestMed Medical Group, or a hospital.
“Our practice is deeply rooted in the community and we thought there was a natural progression here,” he said.
In joining the hospital’s physician associates group, Weber said his practice was able to stay close to its patients and continue to have access to the operating rooms and other facilities it required – all while allowing the hospital to handle its administrative operations.
“A lot is changing and I think the whole health reform movement is forcing everyone – doctors and hospitals – to think about what the future looks like,” Schandler said.
Like Weber’s practice, private practices are increasingly finding they can hand off administrative operations to a hospital or larger multispecialty group while still expanding their own practices and taking on new patients, Schandler said.
“These are very complex, very time-consuming, very difficult investments to make,” Schandler said of those administrative duties. “I think we take a lot of that burden off doctors.”
Weiser said the results have been tangible.
“The medicine part is the same whether you’re doing it in a private practice or a hospital. But there are all of those other things … here the focus is on taking care of patients and letting the hospital do the rest,” he said. “And everyone benefits. Patients don’t have to go into the city to get state-of-the-art care.”
In the past, Westchester-based doctors and their patients often had to travel to New York City for certain procedures. Now, “The strategy is to make sure that we’re keeping those resources here,” said Susan Fox, senior vice president of administration at White Plains Hospital and the architect of the physician associates group.
“As we move forward, we may choose to add other specific practices that aren’t yet in the community,” Fox said.
Both Weiser and Weber also cited the ease with which they are able to connect with the White Plains Hospital administrative staff to address various issues.
“When you’re trying to get something done at a large academic medical center or even a multispecialty group, there are layers,” Weber said. “Now, when I identify a problem, a need, I can address it immediately.”