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Creating another pathway to convenient primary care

Originally published in The Tennessean, February 2020

When we maintain regular primary care appointments, we’re healthier and can detect and receive treatment for potentially life-threatening diseases and conditions sooner. But that isn’t always easy.

Last month, my colleague Dr. Andrea Willis shared how a primary care provider can be compared to an ideal road-trip partner. She also mentioned how BlueCross is always seeking new ways to make primary care more accessible and convenient for our neighbors in Tennessee. It’s part of our commitment as a mission-driven health plan.

One new way we’re pursuing this goal is through a joint venture with Sanitas, part of Keralty, a global health care organization known for providing exceptional patient experiences by more than 14,000 physicians. Together, we will open eight primary care medical centers this fall — four in Middle Tennessee, four in Memphis. 

These centers will be led by physicians and supported by a team of health care professionals that will build the same trusting relationships that Dr. Willis described.

Sanitas already operates similar centers with other BlueCross plans in four states. This made them an ideal partner in our efforts to make primary care services more accessible. Sanitas wants to build relationships with BlueCross members from all segments of our business — including those enrolled in our Medicare Advantage and BlueCare programs.

These new centers will not only offer primary care along with labs, diagnostics and chronic care management services, but urgent care services such as treatment for minor fractures and sprains or suturing for minor cuts, as well.

All will be available through scheduled or same-day appointments, but unscheduled walk-ins are welcome. The centers offer extended nights and weekend hours and will be available to those covered by a BlueCross plan.

Convenience, accessibility in one stop

This partnership will also help coordinate care for our members, helping with referrals to in-network specialists and maximizing their benefits. BlueCross will have customer service representatives available in the centers  as well to further enhance the member’s experience and continuity of care.

While convenience and coordination are major factors, another reason we’re opening these clinics is to help ensure affordable access to care.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, Shelby and Davidson counties have a shortage of primary care providers. We’ve chosen sites in a mix of neighborhoods, some that need more access and some that simply have a high concentration of BlueCross members.

In each area, we anticipate these clinics will supplement existing primary care practices — most of whom are providers in our own network, who we value and will continue to partner with.

This joint venture is an extension of a strategy we’ve long had in place — to support our members as they seek care from providers they trust, and on their schedules.

Since 2015, we’ve invested $65 million in our Patient-Centered Medical Home program, which includes more than 20 primary care practices across Tennessee that are successful in driving high-quality, lower-cost care for members. We evolved this approach with the recent launch of the Medical Home Partnership program, which aligns quality, care coordination, and cost efficiency for all members served by these already existing practices.

We’re also investing with network providers to improve the member experience, including telehealth services and enhanced digital tools. In Chattanooga, Jackson, Johnson City and beyond, we’ve awarded innovation grants to help practices enhance their technology capabilities. These tools will help patients better understand the costs of care,  schedule appointments online, and communicate via multiple channels with providers.

Whether through these new medical centers with Sanitas or additional resources for our existing provider partners, we’ll continue to look for innovative options to help our members get the care they need.

About Clay Phillips, Vice President, Network Strategy and Value-Based Contracting

A photo of the authorClay provides strategic leadership in developing and implementing provider networks and leads the company's efforts to evolve provider payment and care delivery models in ways that support better health and cost-effectiveness for our 3.4 million members.

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