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UNC and Rex start Triangle Physician Network

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UNC Health Care System and Rex Healthcare have set up a nonprofit subsidiary to operate a network of local physician practices.

The Morrisville-based Triangle Physician Network will start with 15 practices and more than 60 doctors across the Triangle. But officials expect to add more practices.

The move is part of a larger trend of hospitals buying or managing doctors' practices. The arrangements are being driven by health-care reform, cuts in reimbursement fees and increasing competition.

Hospitals want more affiliated doctors who can feed patients to their facilities. Physicians want the relative safety of a larger organization that handle hiring, billing and other office matters.

"TPN integrates clinical and operational services to allow both physicians and the UNC Health Care System to focus on what matters most — caring for our patients,” said executive administrative director Bob Ricker, in a prepared statement. “We look forward to strengthening our network of care providers and fostering increased collaboration between hospitals and private practices.”

UNC has owned Raleigh-based Rex since 2000. The combined health system is competing for patients and physicians with the Duke University Health System and WakeMed, which also are setting up more partnerships with local doctors' practices.

In the past year, Raleigh-based WakeMed has added about 25 outside physicians and now has nearly 140 in its network. Officials are in talks with more than 80 more, CEO Bill Atkinson said recently.

For patients, the trend won't mean many changes, at least initially. But affiliated physician practices are more likely to steer patients to a specific hospital, which could limit choices for consumers.

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About the blogger

Assistant Business Editor Alan M. Wolf joined the N&O in 1999 covering the business of health care. He became an editor in 2001, and helps oversee the paper's daily business coverage and Sunday Work&Money section. He lives in Clayton with his wife and two children. Reach him at 919-829-4572 or e-mail him.
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