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As more Physician Organizations come to the table, our collective voice amplifies

May 28th, 2017

So, eight physician organizations walk into a bar. Wait…eight physician organizations got together someplace?! Yep, and it’s happening with greater frequency – even when the topic is not reimbursement! The occasion for a recent gathering was a meeting organized by MedNetOne and Oakland County’s ECHO program. ECHO (Energizing Connections for Healthier Oakland) is a county-wide health improvement initiative focused on achieving a community where every person that lives, works, attends school, worships or plays in Oakland County is a healthy person.

This isn’t a commercial for ECHO, but the multi-pronged initiative appears to be setting the standard for best practices in community health engagement. (Full disclosure, I was not able to attend the actual meeting but several members of my organization did.) In planning this meeting, though, what struck me most about the ECHO folks is simply: They get it! They see the power of POs to impact communities through direct physician access to patients, knowing their physical and emotional health status and, at least in part, understanding the particular social determinants of health these patients encounter as a challenge to sustainable healthy living. It acknowledges understanding of population health as practiced by physicians in the trenches. Our own organization serves a patient population of 250,000 in roughly five counties. There are larger organizations than ours, too, some serving up to 500,000 patients. Multiply PO populations by the number of POs in the state and one gets a much better understanding of the reach of POs in direct patient care.

I’ve written recently about the evolution of how Physician Organizations are viewed, moving from claims administration and medical management organizations to key thought leaders and health programming partners through the introduction of concepts like PCMH, PCMH-N, Organized Systems of Care, Narrow Networks and Choosing Wisely via physician member practices. The reasons for the evolution are varied, but I think it’s important to note that as more POs take a seat at the table, whether it be through BCBSM’s Value Partnerships or community-based programs like ECHO, the recognition of their value in being part of the conversation correspondingly rises.

POs may have some semblance of a corporate structure at the leadership level, depending on the size of the organization, but make no mistake, POs exist only to make the practice of patient-centric, outcomes-focused healthcare possible for their members. Now, as greater understanding of our capabilities increases, there need to be even more POs at the table on a regular basis.  While 90% of life may be just showing up, that metric won’t cut it here.  We need ongoing collaboration and goal-setting.  And when we are not invited to the table, we may need to invite ourselves. Elbowing our way in doesn’t always make fast friends but when you do it often enough, and for the right reasons, people take notice. And positive change happens. Ready to engage? Here, let me get you a chair.

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