The North Carolina Medical Society Foundation (NCMSF) is pleased to announce the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust has awarded a $440,500 grant to the Foundation’s Rural ACO Initiative to improve access to health care for people living in rural and underserved areas of the state.
The grant will span three years beginning in 2016 and enable medical practices to move to value-based models of care like Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which are seen as the future of health care in this country. Broadly, an ACO involves more coordination of patient care, meeting specific quality of care benchmarks for a population of patients served and through preventive care and greater efficiencies realizing cost savings. The change in how care is delivered, received and paid for in an ACO requires a large investment of resources and expertise to be successful. The Trust grant will help support this transformation in up to 15 rural practices over the next three years.
“We are sincerely grateful for the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust’s support. We see this as an important opportunity to demonstrate that ACOs are a promising health care delivery model, and, most importantly will increase patient satisfaction and health outcomes,” said Jim Hill, PA-C, President of the NCMS Foundation Board of Trustees. “Health care providers who serve the financially needy are often hard pressed for the time and resources needed to adopt innovative improvements like better patient care coordination and identifying areas for cost efficiency. This initiative will help prepare practices to thrive in the emerging value-based health care payment and delivery system.”
The initiative will use the NCMSF’s 26-year-old Community Practitioner Program as the firm foundation from which to recruit rural practices to take part. Also eligible will be federally qualified health centers (FQHC), rural health clinics, critical access hospitals and small hospitals with under 100 beds, all of which serve financially needy patients.
The NCMSF has partnered with CHESS, a management services organization based in High Point, to provide the needed front-line expertise to each participating practice. CHESS’ management services will include provider recruitment, care coordination training, patient engagement and other assistance needed to facilitate the culture shift a practice undergoes as it moves to a value-based model of care.
According to James Hoekstra, M.D., Chief Business Development Officer for CHESS and Vice President for Network Clinical Affairs at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, “This is a great opportunity for us to continue our efforts to support the development of clinician-led, value-based medicine in the rural communities of North Carolina. The clinical and business expertise, physician education services and patient engagement programs CHESS offers are perfectly aligned with the objectives of this grant. We are pleased and proud to be able to serve patients who live in the rural and underserved areas of North Carolina in this way.”
Through this initiative, CHESS will work with the NCMS Foundation to prepare aspiring rural ACOs for participation in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Shared Savings Program, the CMS ACO Investment Model and other ACO arrangements.
While the Rural ACO Initiative will benefit all patients, it’s estimated that 60 percent of the patients in each participating practice will be financially disadvantaged.
“The Trust is committed to improving health throughout rural North Carolina, and supporting rural doctors and medical practices as they evolve and grow in the changing health care landscape is critical to that commitment,” said Allen Smart, interim president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “Rural residents want and need access to quality care, and we believe providing technical and financial assistance to practices transitioning to ACOs is one way to ensure more coordinated, affordable care for patients.”
Success of the initiative will be measured in the expected increase in patient satisfaction with their care and lower costs. Thanks to the Trust’s help with funding and CHESS’ experience in managing the transition to an ACO, many more of the state’s most vulnerable citizens will have improved access to care.