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Summit Health: A Pioneering New Jersey Medical Group Expands its Reach Out West

September 14, 2017
by Mark Hagland
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A pioneering New Jersey medical group is expanding its reach—through its management company—to Arizona and Oregon

A pioneering multispecialty medical group based in northern New Jersey is expanding its reach—literally—across the country. The 500-physician, Berkeley Heights, New Jersey-based Summit Medical Group on Sep. 14 announced that its recently created Summit Health Management (SHM) management company has “unveiled transactions today that will extend its highly effective patient care and physician group management model outside of New Jersey,” according to a press release made public this morning. “In Oregon, a Letter of Intent to provide administrative, clinical and financial management services has been signed with Bend Memorial Clinic (BMC), the largest independent multi-specialty physician group in its region, with 120 providers,” the press release stated. Meanwhile, “In the Greater Phoenix area, SHM will join 51 providers currently affiliated as Arizona Primary Care Physicians (APC) to form Summit Medical Group Arizona as of January 1, 2018. Additionally, APC has entered into a comprehensive management services contract with SHM to facilitate the partnership and transition,” the press release noted.

“The rapidly evolving health care landscape is requiring independent physician groups across the country to make pivotal decisions that will shape their future and the delivery of patient care. We are delighted that Bend Memorial Clinic and Arizona Primary Care have chosen to partner with us to retain their physician-owned and governed structures and patient-centric philosophy,” said Jeffrey LeBenger, chairman and CEO of both Summit Health Management and Summit Medical Group, in a statement in the press release. “We’ll help both of these partners to thrive and expand by sharing our resources and expertise in population health management and other emerging value-based care models. We are committed to a culture of collaboration across geographic boundaries with shared learning and uniform adoption of best practices.” SHM will provide Bend Memorial Clinic with comprehensive administrative, clinical and financial management services. 

Meanwhile, in Arizona, the press release stated, “Summit Medical Group Arizona will align like-minded medical providers in a physician-led group with a culture of caring and a patient-first philosophy. Utilizing SHM’s care and practice management model, it will deliver greater value and increased quality for the residents of Arizona.” Summit Medical Group Arizona is bringing together several separate practices affiliated under the identity of Arizona Primary Care, and which care for patients across the broader Phoenix metroplex.

Jeffrey LeBenger, M.D.

For Dr. LeBenger and his colleagues, Thursday’s announcement marks a natural progression for an organization that has been pioneering advanced medical management strategies and processes back home in New Jersey. Back in July, Dr. LeBenger told Healthcare Informatics that “We’ve done very, very well in our population health process, meaning that we beat the market in PMPM [per member per month] costs in the state of New Jersey by almost 8 percent in the past year. What we found out” in terms of how to achieve success under risk-based contracts, he said this summer, “is that you must share data with your physicians, meaning that you have to scrub it, you have to fix it, and you have to work with financial and clinical data together. And it has to be timely data—you need timely data from the payers. And you have to put the right data into the right health information exchange. And you have to understand where your high-cost points are in your model of healthcare.”

Meanwhile, the level of physician aggregation and operational management on the part of an established medical group, outside of established physician-led health systems like the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, that was announced Thursday morning, remains unusual in U.S. healthcare. Given that, Dr. LeBenger made himself available to Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland for an exclusive interview, in order to elaborate on the strategies articulated in Thursday morning’s announcement. Below are excerpts from their interview about the announcement.

What would be the correct way to refer to the relationships between your organization and the physician groups in Bend and Phoenix?

In Phoenix, we are a minority owner in the Summit Medical Group of Arizona. Summit Health Management is a minority owner in Summit Medical Group of Arizona, and we have a long-term management services agreement for all management services. Summit Medical Group in New Jersey… Summit Medical Group of Arizona’s physicians will also be shareholders in the management company. And when you have physicians with the same mission, vision, and values—and focused on the value proposition of honesty, trust and transparency—you’re able to move the healthcare dollar to put the patients first—this is always about the patients.  This is about how we take care of patients; that’s what physicians are born and bred to do. So by creating a management company with similar drives and values as the group, and the same ownership structure, you can enhance a very well-integrated model.

And what is the correct terminology to describe the relationship with Bend Medical Clinic?

Bend Medical Clinic will continue as it is. Summit Health Management will assume all debt, hard assets, and workforce, and have a long-term management services agreement with the Bend Medical Clinic.


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