WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)


2 big doctor groups may merge; Fallon Clinic-Atrius deal would cover nearly 1m patients.” By Steven Syre. Boston Globe. April 22, 2011. Two of the state’s largest private medical practices are in talks to merge into a giant doctor-run group that would care for nearly a million Massachusetts patients and significantly escalate the pace of health care consolidation throughout the state. Atrius Health, which runs the Harvard Vanguard system and four other doctors practices, is in advanced talks with Fallon Clinic, the Worcester-based medical group. “Fallon Clinic and Atrius Health are in significant discussions about how we can improve patient care together through an affiliation and hope to reach a conclusion shortly,’’ Fallon and Atrius said in a joint statement. Company executives declined to comment further. Patients would probably not see any disruption in their medical care if the practices merge. But a larger, combined organization may be able to provide more convenient medical services and could work with insurers to offer new kinds of heath care coverage to businesses with employees spread around the state. Atrius has 844 doctors and more than 717,000 patients, most of them members of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. Fallon’s more than 250 doctors care for nearly 250,000 patients at 20 Central Massachusetts locations. The Atrius-Fallon talks are taking place against a backdrop of furious consolidation in the hospital sector. Steward Health Care System, the former Caritas Christi group, acquired two additional hospitals recently and struck deals this month to buy two more. And other smaller Massachusetts hospitals are believed to be contemplating mergers and affiliations with larger institutions. Hospitals are also building bigger physician networks, affiliating with doctors or hiring them outright, funneling more patients to their institutions. Large physician networks at Steward, Tufts Medical Center, and the parent company of Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital are among the growing hospital-based doctor groups. A combined Atrius-Fallon would be a much different kind of health organization, however, built around doctors and big enough to negotiate aggressively with hospitals on reimbursement rates and shared financial risks.

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