It was a different office at a different location, but it was the same friendly face — and that is what was important to Lacy Schlenker.
“It’s important for someone to know my daughter and know her story,” said Schlenker, who decided to follow pediatrician Dr. Andrea Mead to her new office with UCHealth.
Schlenker’s 5-year-old daughter, Scarlett, has been seeing Mead ever since she was discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at 4 months old.
“She was there from the get-go,” Schlenker said of Mead. “She’s more like an aunt or sister than just our doctor. I could talk to her and be vulnerable with her, which was important as a new mother.”
As a new parent who spent so much time in the NICU, where she was told how she needed to care for her daughter, it was a relief to have a physician who listened rather than told her what to do, Schlenker said.
“It was hard to transition to normal parents. With Dr. Mead, I didn’t have to ask permission of what to do with my daughter, which you feel like you need to do sometimes with doctors — she was a comfort in that sense,” Schlenker said. “She truly listened and helped us figure things out. She brushed nothing off to just get to a diagnosis.”
That became even more important when Scarlett started having stomach issues and needed to see a specialist.
“She (Dr. Mead) followed us every step of the way,” Schlenker said. “And that’s why we followed her.”
Mead recently joined UCHealth Medical Group, a physician team of more than 300 doctors throughout Front Range communities. Mead grew up in the Loveland area and has been a pediatrician there for 18 years. It was a personal decision to move to UCHealth, as it allowed her a better family-work balance, she said. It was still a hard decision, though, because she had so many patients who, like Scarlett, she’d been treating almost since birth.
But as Schlenker found out, it’s not a huge challenge to follow your doctor into a new health system.
“Our goal is that the continuum of care for patients is not disrupted,” said Kelley Hekowczyk, director of physician recruitment and credentialing for UCHealth in northern Colorado. “These are the same great providers offering the same excellent clinical care, just with another health system.”
Noncompete contracts prevent UCHealth from actively promoting a new provider — including any contact with the provider’s patients — until the provider is an official employee of the health system, Hekowczyk explained. Patients will usually be contacted by the provider’s former office and be told their provider is leaving.
“Initially, I was a bit worried because I didn’t know why she was no longer there and wasn’t sure if we were going to lose her,” Schlenker said. “I trusted her, and we’ve got a good relationship with her, and that is important.”
UCHealth contracts with about 20 different insurance plans, both governmental and nongovernmental. The provider’s new office should be able to help determine whether UCHealth takes a patient’s current insurance, Hekowczyk said.
Transferring medical records also is important for a smooth transition, and this is not something that happens automatically, she said. A patient’s former office should be able to transfer those records, but a signature may be required — it all depends on that office’s policy.
“Medical records are only released upon the patient’s request. This is to protect the patient,” Hekowczyk said.
Patients also have to fill out new patient paperwork during their first visit with the provider under the new health system.
“We have a good Cigna policy through my husband’s work, and we were familiar with UCHealth because my son was born there,” Schlenker said. “It’s comforting as a mom to have a pediatrician who cares so much about your babies. Our transition to UCHealth has been smooth so far, and I’m so happy I’m able to keep Dr. Mead.”