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Your 1,100 providers will see you now

“Our patient mix is complex,” says Thomas Macharia, MD, infectious diseases specialist and internist at TAMC Family Practice and Internal Medicine. “The older populations live with multiple chronic diseases while our younger patients have more mental health needs.” Caring for these patients requires additional time and resources in short supply in Maine’s sparsely populated areas, like Aroostook County. Access to healthcare specialists and services for these rural communities often means traveling to Bangor or beyond to receive advanced care, which can lead to repeated medical testing and time wasted on travel. This spring, EMHS brought together a resource to help address these issues and more — a systemwide medical group.

Creating a new culture

Dr. Macharia sees the benefit of working within a systemwide medical group, even within his practice. “Without a single medical group, each member organization may differ in the way they deliver healthcare to their communities, and have fragmented protocols. Our past culture tended to create a lot of variation in care and ultimately isn’t benefiting our patients or our bottom line.” The newly formed EMHS Medical Group gives each employed provider easy access to support, guidance, and expertise from a network of approximately 1,110 system providers.
“It’s about creating a new culture,” says Jeff Doran, EMHS vice president of System Clinical Services, and chief operating officer of the EMHS Medical Group. “The Medical Group Advisory Council recently developed and approved the Provider Compact — the document is both practical and symbolic. It outlines the foundational values, responsibilities, and expectations for what each employed provider is asked to embrace as a member of the medical group. Equally, the document also states what the medical group leadership values and its responsibilities to each employed provider.” The compact is a binding agreement designed to foster professional alignment, accountability, and a collective commitment to EMHS’ patients and communities. Each provider will be expected to review and co-sign the compact along with their respective medical leader.

Connecting the dots

Steve Berkowitz, MD, EMHS interim chief medical officer and president of the medical group, defines a successful medical group to be one that, “provides state-of-the-art quality care; is transparent in its processes; develops practice models that improve the patient, provider, and staff experience; and fosters good communication.” That communication will become far easier once EMHS fully implements the new electronic health record in the next 12 to 18 months. The single health record makes sharing clinical notes, past health history, and test results seamless and efficient between health providers. That creates a better patient experience and is another step toward becoming a high reliability organization.
The medical group also serves as a vehicle to accomplish several EMHS’ strategic plan initiatives. EMHS is challenged to recruit, retain, and engage a robust provider workforce needed to address the health of Maine’s communities. Dr. Berkowitz and others see the medical group as an excellent recruitment and engagement tool as it offers physicians an opportunity to have the flexibility to potentially work anywhere within the system. Additionally, as care delivery becomes standardized, systemwide service lines like Women’s Health, Palliative Care, and Cardiovascular Services will emerge and provide patients the same care from one member to another.
In the end, it’s about the patient

To deliver high-quality, patient-centered care, EMHS needs to continue to have an engaged and satisfied workforce. The medical group gives providers a platform for driving changes that result in the best care for patients. Daniel Pink writes in his book, Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us, “The secret to high performance and satisfaction at work is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.” It’s the idea behind the medical group — a strong, unified care team that will bring the expertise of more than providers to every patient who walks through its doors.   
To learn more out the EMHS Medical Group, visit their portal