If there’s strength in numbers, then the Colorado Health Neighborhoods (CHN) are getting plenty strong.
The physician-led network of now significantly more than 1,400 primary care providers and 2,800 specialists, recently added Banner Network Colorado. That adds 60 primary care providers, 246 specialists and three Banner Health hospitals in northern Colorado to the CHN family — easily making it the biggest physician/medical support network in Colorado, supporters say.
“Banner Health shares a common vision and dedication with CHN network provider members—to build thriving communities and partner with consumers for integrated care to support their health and well-being, while improving outcomes and quality and reducing costs,” said Kit Brekhus, M.D., the chief medical executive of CHN and one of many independent physicians in the network. “The natural collaboration between our organizations supports improved access to in-network care across the Front Range.”
Centura Health actually runs CHN, which brought independent physicians into what was already probably the largest network in the metro area. The participation agreement to enter into a provider network, effective Jan. 1, was inked between Centura and Banner Health Network, owned by Banner Health, on Sept. 26.
In previous interviews, Brekhus hailed the network as a way for primary care physicians to remain independent, while still availing themselves of necessary technological improvements without a significant amount of pain. But it goes well beyond the technological advantages, as primary care physicians seek to build networks of care, including specialists, medical technicians and support personnel, including therapists and counselors.
Almost all the physicians in CHN are en route to being certified for Patient-Centered Medical Home, which stresses a team approach to providing health care rather than the single gateway that has long been the role of the primary-care physician. Since the cost for a single primary-care physician to meet the staffing and care-coordination requirements can run above $9,000 a month, there are good reasons to join a network that provides much of what the physicians need.
“Both Centura and Banner share a similar vision actively working to improve patient care, and one of the ways to do that is through a provider network,” said Paul Kellogg, the vice president at Banner who led their own network efforts. “We’re now part of the biggest network in the state, providing clinical integration with the physicians, hospitals and all the providers who touch patient care.”
Clinical integration means that as a patient your information is available to physicians or other medical providers assigned to your care. That often isn’t as easy as it might seem given the confidentially rules set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
But it also means that medical personnel can move much more effectively as a team to work on specific care requirements for patients. Bigger networks also allow health providers to look at trends in their population from a much better vantage point, perhaps reaching specific at-risk populations before problems emerge.
“That level of interoperability is in the future,” Kellogg said. “The goal of providers in the community is to be working with employers, the communities — working together in network from Pueblo to Fort Collins.”
The first thing that patients will see is a great enhancement in the availability of care, as physicians will not necessarily be hamstrung about where and when patients can go for care.
“The network enhances those referral relationships — we can meet patients where they live and provide medical assistance,” Kellogg said. “If an individual needs specialty care in Northern Colorado, by integrating our two networks we think it increases the probability that it will be assessable. Patients want to get care where it’s convenient for them.
“A larger number of providers allows for more efficiency in actively managing the population,” he said. “That’s our goal of keeping them healthy and well.”