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Sunday, 04 August 2013 21:23

Physician group eyes more efficient care as part of Bronson

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Jim McKernan Jim McKernan

After becoming part of Bronson Healthcare Group, the largest physician practice in Southwest Michigan is now focused on integrating into the health system and expanding clinical services as needed across the market.

The need for physicians to work far closer with hospitals drove the newly renamed Bronson HealthCare Midwest to join the Kalamazoo health system. By operating under the same corporate structure, the physician group can better meet a rapidly changing health care environment that places greater emphasis on systems of care and paying providers on how well hospitals and doctors manage the health of their patients, said Jim McKernan, senior executive at HealthCare Midwest.

In just one example of how integration can improve quality, McKernan cites patients with COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The single biggest reason for costly hospital readmissions of COPD patients is when they don’t see their primary care physician within 24 hours of discharge to help manage their condition and keep it under control.

As a single entity, the hospital and physicians can more readily manage patients, including sharing discharge information and scheduling follow-up office appointments before someone leaves the hospital, McKernan said.

“That’s hard to do when you have a hospital and then you have an independent physician group, and how do I connect this group and that group, and how do I make that happen? Obviously, when you’re in one system, that makes it a lot easier,” he said. “There are so many things that become open to you when you’re in one system, as opposed to being more of an independent group. You couldn’t get those connections and those patient hands-offs and to get the patient to the right place, at the right time, for the right care.”

HealthCare Midwest will transition next February to Bronson’s electronic medical record system, enabling patients to have a single record, rather than two.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of Bronson Healthcare Group, HealthCare Midwest has more than 400 employees and 80 physicians and mid-level care providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The group has offices in Kalamazoo, Portage, Battle Creek, Paw Paw, Sturgis, South Haven, Three Rivers, Coldwater and Allegan.

The merger with Bronson Healthcare Group aligns HealthCare Midwest with a large health system at a time when all care providers are working to figure out their future under federal health care reform and its complexities.

“What do you need to do to move forward without killing yourself but still move in that direction because that’s ultimately where we’re going to have to be?” McKernan said. “That’s what most health care systems are struggling with, but it’s certainly easier when you have the hospital and the physicians aligned.”

As part of the Bronson system, HealthCare Midwest intends to continue in a growth mode. The group recently expanded into rheumatology and plans to add a second rheumatologist in Kalamazoo in August and a third by the end of the year.

The group also wants to beef up its internal medicine and family medicine primary care practices, and an internal medicine and pediatrics practice in Kalamazoo that is “just overflowing with patient demand,” McKernan said.

“For sure, we’ll be looking for growth. You have to get to a size where you can impact people,” he said.

General surgery and surgical subspecialties are other areas the group is looking to expand as part of Bronson, McKernan said. HealthCare Midwest and Bronson plan to examine further clinical service line expansions “where it makes sense for the overall system,” he said.

HealthCare Midwest, however, is not looking to expand geographically just for the sake of growth, although it would consider moving new clinical services into a market such as Battle Creek – where Bronson Healthcare Group acquired Battle Creek Health System two years ago – in partnership with established physician groups, McKernan said.

“We’re not looking to go into a Battle Creek, per se, set up camp and start competing with the local groups that are doing a good job. There’s no reason to do that,” he said. “What I’d rather do is come alongside and supplement with some of the specialty-specific physicians that aren’t currently in that community.”

Read 3269 times Last modified on Sunday, 04 August 2013 14:07

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