Revisiting the Integrated Delivery Network Model

Published Online: January 21, 2013
The idea behind an integrated delivery network (IDN)—a concept that was developed in the 1980s and widely implemented in the 1990s—is that a network of facilities and providers can work together to offer a continuum of care in a particular geographic area. Although the concept was one that initially drew praise, the implementation of this type of system did not gain momentum from the onset. However, as time has elapsed, advancements have made this model worth revisiting.

Although some IDNs still exist today, the concept never seemed to fully take off. In a study published in Health Affairs in November, Lauren R. Burns and Mark V. Pauly contend that this type of organization failed to originally gain momentum “because of heavy financial losses stemming from hospitals’ purchase of physician practices and their inability to align incentives, garner capitated contracts, and develop the infrastructure to manage risk.” However, much has changed since the 1990s. Study data continues to provide healthcare organizations with blueprints for running a more efficient operation, and healthcare technology is evolving at a rapid pace.

One organization that has utilized the information at hand to implement a new-age IDN is Regional Cancer Care Associates. The statewide group of 76 oncologists has consolidated their practices in an effort to lower costs and combine resources for more than 33% of New Jersey’s cancer patients. The consolidation will allow the group to bargain with insurance and drug companies while providing patients greater access to clinical trials and providers. recently spoke with Regional Cancer Care Associates president Andrew Pecora, MD, who spoke about how the IDN will help with cost control.

"We have to do all the right things - but we have to do those right things at a responsible cost," said Dr Pecora. "We have spent the last 30 to 40 years learning how better to treat cancer patients - and now we can do it. When I think that in the future patients might not be able to afford it, it makes my skin crawl."

Will this signify a revival in the utilization of IDNs to get patients better and more affordable access to care? It’s too early to tell. However, given the advancements in the past 30 years, an old idea may be receiving new life.

If you are interested in learning more about IDNs and best practices for leveraging this type of system, please visit Healthcare Research & Analytics’ (HRA) website to sign up for their upcoming webinar, "Understanding Integrated Delivery Networks."

Around the Web

NJ Oncology Network Promises Benefits for Patients []

Accountable Care Organizations May Have Difficulty Avoiding the Failures Of Integrated Delivery Networks Of The 1990s
[Health Affairs]