Taking the Pulse of Primary Care

Taking the Pulse of Primary Care

Nationally, the role of primary care is evolving. Beacon leaders partner with health care strategists at Sg2 for trending market intelligence and opportunities within primary care, focusing on improving patient outcomes, reducing costs and addressing population health goals. Meeting these challenges requires continuous retooling of how this important work is being delivered. Beacon Medical Group President Vince Henderson, MD, spoke with Physician Quarterly recently about honing the capabilities within primary care practices at Beacon to do just that.
Primary care’s charter — where we are now
Despite the uncertain path of the Affordable Care Act and its implications on providers and health systems, Dr. Henderson is confident that health care’s future will always be about providing value.

“We talk a lot about value-based metrics and what we’re really talking about is quality and cost — and insurers are pushing in that direction,” he explains. “So, no matter what happens with all the rhetoric out of Washington, DC, as far as ‘we’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare’ or ‘we’re going to do this or that,’ it’s not going to change this progression that we’re on with regard to quality. It’s going to continue to move forward.”

A team approach to quality

Having better quality data available is creating opportunities to act upon that data, including reaching out to patients for preventive care and chronic condition support. For example, a BMG-employed transitional care nurse is now available to follow up with hospital patients in Elkhart, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties to ensure they have the resources they need to prevent a readmission.

If a BMG physician needs help meeting established quality metrics, a provider-led Quality Team is available to help PCPs ensure their patients receive important preventive screenings including mammograms and colonoscopies. Dr. Henderson says the measure can have a positive impact on reimbursements tied to achieving certain metrics.

Paying attention to patient-centric care

Consumerism in health care is a growing phenomenon — increasingly, health care customers are influencing the where, when and how care is being provided. While Dr. Henderson admits that there are still some organizational and financial barriers to achieving the desired level of patient centricity at BMG, he adds, “We’re getting better at it.” Cases in point:

Deepening the bench with advanced practice clinicians: To help address the primary care provider shortage felt locally, BMG has added more than 120 nurse practitioners and physician assistants, a strategy recommended by Sg2.

Within the Beacon Medical Group practices, some APCs have a panel of their own patients and some work in support of physicians; Dr. Henderson adds that there are hybrid situations in-between those extremes, too. To ensure top-of-license practice by the APCs, additional training is provided through the Memorial Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program as well as continuing medical education opportunities.
“APCs are also increasingly integrated into the governance structure of the medical group so they have a voice on the important committees,” says Dr. Henderson. “I see them as extremely invaluable going forward.”

Ensuring of timed workflow: Using a leapfrog method of rooming patients is proving to be a satisfier for both patients and providers. In this team-based model of care, two medical assistants alternate patient visits with the physician or provider. The staff member who rooms the first patient stays to transcribe the visit; after the provider leaves the room, the same staff member remains to complete dictated orders, schedule follow-up appointments and give patient education as needed. Meanwhile, the provider continues on to see the next patient who is already prepared in another exam room.

“This is one of the most exciting things I think we’re doing,” says Dr. Henderson. “We started the leapfrog program with our primary care providers and now many of our specialists are clamoring for it.” Not only does the program improve quality scores and overall office operations, it’s giving providers a renewed sense of engagement.

“Several physicians have said, ‘This is why I got into medicine,’” Dr. Henderson explains. “They can actually spend more time focusing on the patient and less time on the documentation. We think this will pay large dividends down the road for our patients.”

Embracing technology: With more than 90 “pods” of Beacon Medical Group providers across four counties, connectivity among primary care physicians and specialists can be challenging. A recent investment in videoconferencing technology with high-definition monitors is expected to reduce provider and administrative “windshield time.” Dr. Henderson said he envisions using the technology to connect primary care patients with select BMG specialists via video meeting from any BMG office.

Looking ahead

During a recent Executive Summit, Sg2 advisors predicted a continued path of truly patient-centered care over the next decade, care that is not necessarily provided at a physical “place,” but more within a connected network enabled by technology. Dr. Henderson feels Beacon Medical Group is well on its way to fulfilling this future vision of health care.

“Sometimes you go to a conference and you take away a large number of new ideas, and that’s extremely important. And sometimes you go to a meeting and get a validation for what you’re already doing. After attending the Executive Summit, I felt a lot of validation of what we’re already trying to accomplish. I am extremely proud of all of the physicians, providers, administrators and other staff at Beacon Medical group who support great work each day.”

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