In January, Via Christi Clinic officially became Ascension Medical Group Via Christi, bringing its 18 Kansas locations, most in the Wichita area, into a larger national provider system. The new name and brand is an external reflection of internal work over the past two years to align and integrate the Kansas clinics and their more than 200 providers with Ascension Medical Group, a national group of 7,000 providers established in 2015.
Chief Operating Officer
AMG Via Christi
That transition brings some unique opportunities to better serve patients, the providers who care for them and the Kansas communities in which they serve, according to Claudio Ferraro, AMG Via Christi’s Administrative Leader, and Philip Newlin, MD, its Clinical Leader.
“We’re part of an evolution to become clinically integrated and deliver better care,” Dr. Newlin says. “The next chapter will be how we, as part of a national delivery model, can benefit from the best practices of our colleagues across the country. We will be an active participant with an active voice as well, with all of us being learners, working toward excellence.”
Ferraro agrees. “That’s the real value of us continuing the journey and becoming part of Ascension,” he says. “We can bring better care to the communities we serve by becoming part of a national ministry.”
Good for Patient Care
Philip Newlin, MD
Chief Medical Officer
AMG Via Christi
Being able to tap into a larger national network of pilot programs and patient care initiatives and innovations allows AMG Via Christi to accelerate adoption and implementation of best care practices, Ferraro says.
“We meet with partners from other ministry areas in the medical group via regularly scheduled phone calls and quarterly face-to-face meetings to drive initiatives that are good for patient care and our mission,” says Dr. Newlin, a pediatrician who has served as a clinical leader for AMG Via Christi since 2017.
For example, Dr. Newlin led a nationwide AMG task force of administrators and expert clinicians exploring ways to better address the opioid crisis, which resulted in a three-pronged approach:
- Guidelines about how to best manage patients on chronic opioids
- Robust education for providers, including webinars, about topics such as pain management and weaning patients from opioids
- Using electronic records and patient data more effectively to manage prescribing practices
The initiative has already yielded results, Dr. Newlin says, noting that opioid use among those receiving insurance benefits through Ascension has decreased significantly. The initiative’s resulting guidelines are not proprietary, so anyone interested in finding out more can contact Dr. Newlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AMG is now looking at two other patient initiatives: improving colon cancer screening rates and improving the care of those with diabetes, particularly among the African-American population.
“Working together, we’re able to improve the health of patients in our community as well as in the 21 states and District of Columbia served by Ascension and Ascension Medical Group,” Dr. Newlin says.
The ‘Doctor’s Doctor’
As part of its mission to improve healthcare access for Kansans, AMG Via Christi has brought on some highly specialized providers who can provide consultations to other medical practice providers seeing patients with complex cases.
- Christopher R. Halphen, DO, an orthopedic oncologist who specializes in sarcomas, bone tumors and soft tissue masses
- Ricky W. Lee, MD, an epileptologist who deals with complex seizure disorders
- Simon Patton, MD, a urogynecologist in one of the newest specialties in medicine, female pelvic medicine and reconstruction
- Ragnar S. Peterson, MD, a surgeon who uses leading-edge techniques for hernia repair and is designing a comprehensive hernia center
“The geographic draw of these specialties are similar to that of a burn center in that these physicians are dealing with complicated or very specific specialties and provide specialties not readily found elsewhere in the region,” Ferraro says. “They serve as a ‘doctor’s doctor’ — teaming up with physicians across the state by providing consults, taking care of the most complex patients and then returning that patient back to his or her provider in the home community.”
Dr. Newlin agreed, adding, “We’re happy to serve as an extension of the patient’s care team.”
As part of a larger healthcare network, providers within AMG Via Christi are able to focus on providing patient care, rather than on day-to-day business operations, Dr. Newlin notes. AMG takes care of human resource issues, billing patients, paying vendors, ordering supplies and more, allowing doctors to take care of patients.
Trends indicate many new physicians are opting to join a healthcare system rather than opening a business. According to a 2016 study by MedScape, which surveyed medical residents, only 22 percent said they intended to open a private practice, down from 26 percent in 2015.
“We’re here to provide an attractive option to physicians who don’t elect to establish a private practice, as well as to support those who do, as together we work to meet the need for high-quality, close-to-home care,” Ferraro says.