Matthews-Vu Medical Group: best in class
A quiet, competitive spirit drives the team at Matthews-Vu Medical Group; a desire to be the best at what they do. “Practicing good medicine” is more than something they say, it’s something they do. And they challenge themselves to do more and to be better every day.
Three years ago, this determination manifested in a collective commitment to population health. Today, Matthews-Vu Medical Group has improved quality measures across the board and consistently delivers top performance in UCHealth Integrated Network’s value-based contracts.
“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. Dr. Vu has always been committed to delivering good health care. But now, everything we do is documented and trackable,” said Sara Sanderson, RN and population health manager. “We have made a big impact on 37,000 lives.”
Building a program
Like many organizations, Matthews-Vu Medical Group started their journey with funding available through the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) program. They recruited Sanderson to build their program, design a process for case management and develop a risk stratification model; they used trial and error to figure out the rest.
“It has been a transition. Practicing good medicine is sometimes hard,” said Paul Novotny, director of operations. “Checking boxes and coding can be tedious. It’s not for everyone. But this is the way we do it.”
Matthews-Vu Medical Group now has ten, dedicated population health team members. They work as an efficient unit preparing for patient visits with a “needs checklist” prior to each appointment, making inpatient calls, contacting frequent ED utilizers and leading care teams to make sure no patient is left behind. But those team members will be the first to acknowledge that, to be successful, it takes a village.
“It’s a team effort. Our providers understand that good patient care takes time and it’s imperative they rely on the members of their team to help them accomplish the many goals we have. The work begins long before the patient ever schedules their wellness visit,” Sanderson said.
And patients are not exempt from responsibility in managing their own health care. The staff has worked hard to educate patients about the importance of wellness visits, and trained them to expect reminders for annual exams and quarterly diabetes checks.
“Even our high-acuity patients know they are accountable for fulfilling the care plan we prescribe,” Sanderson said. “We’re going to give them the best care possible, but the rest is up to them. We want to help patients independently manage their own health care, not become dependent on the system.”
Finding long-term success
With population health management, there is always something more to do. To find success early on, you have to be willing to let things go. Start by evaluating programs for common measures and financial benefits. Determine how many patients are affected by each measure, and implement across all patients, not by payer.
“There are always going to be patients who go to the emergency room unnecessarily. If it’s once for a cough or sinus infection, you have to let it go. If you start to see a pattern of consistent misuse, then it might be time to give that patient a call,” Sanderson said.
Sanderson would know. Matthews-Vu Medical Group is one of UCHealth Integrated Network’s best in reducing the number of potentially avoidable ED visits. They also know a thing or two about scheduling wellness exams.
“It’s really hard to get patients between the ages of 18-30 in for a wellness exam. They’re indestructible… it’s just not going to happen,” Sanderson said. “Despite that, we’ve doubled our wellness visits in just two years. You focus where there is opportunity.”
And there’s always opportunity—especially in an office with an open-door policy.
“Matthews-Vu Medical Group is not closed to anyone at any time. We successfully accept unlimited Medicaid patients. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible,” Novotny said. “If you look at the data monthly or quarterly, it will make you crazy. But when you look at the results year-over-year, even every two years, you can really see the changes in the data. It makes it worth the extra effort.”