Over the last several years, physicians have increasingly been aligning themselves with hospitals. They have done so both to gain financial security and to gain the clout of being part of a prestigious healthcare system. In fact, American Medical Association statistics show less than half of physicians now own a financial stake in their practices.
New York-based Allied Physicians Group is bucking that trend. This group of more than 130 pediatricians is fiercely independent, and it intends to stay that way in order to provide the best possible care to its patients. I recently had the opportunity to visit Allied at its home office on Long Island to talk to staff about the organization’s mission, its challenges, how it’s using analytics to make more data-driven decisions, and the potential of the technology in the future. Here are some of my takeaways.
Being independent in the face of physician affiliation
Allied Physicians is surrounded by a plethora of prestigious medical institutions, such as Northwell, NYU, Mount Sinai, Stonybrook, and more. Robert Creaven, Allied’s executive vice president of operations, says it’s hard to compete with these institutions, but that the physicians who link up with Allied value their independence more than anything else.
According to Robert, “Our partner owners don’t want to have anybody tell them what to do or how they should see their kids or what hours they should work or how much they’re paying their staff. They want the ability to run their practices as they see fit with the ultimate goal of coming together to make sure they’re giving the best quality for their patients and their kids.”
When it comes to analytics, Allied is using Diver to help its doctors figure out the nuts and bolts of their businesses so they can make better decisions about things like staffing, which hours they should be open, which patients are due for vaccines, and much more. When you’re competing with the Goliath health systems, Allied has found that analytics helps it be much more nimble and responsive to its customers’ needs.
The rise of urgent care centers
Robert said the biggest challenge his organization faces right now, though, is the rise of urgent care centers. Many patients are flocking to these centers when they need day-of care, but Robert said the convenience comes at a price. He talked to me about the inherent value of patients seeing their own providers, as these doctors understand their patients holistically, and not just as a list of symptoms.
Allied obviously loses revenue when a patient goes elsewhere for care. But beyond that, Allied is still responsible for the overall quality of its patient population. That means when patients aren’t coming in for regular visits, that can impact Allied’s quality metrics, which leads to lower reimbursement down the road.
In order to combat this, Allied is launching new initiatives such as a telemedicine program. In this program, Allied is partnering with Tyto to offer parents devices that enable doctors to look into ears, eyes, and throats to provide remote diagnoses. Telemedicine is an exciting and emerging area, and Robert and I spent some time talking about how Diver could ultimately provide insights into Allied’s telemedicine initiative.
Understanding quality metrics
Allied currently works with 17 different insurance carriers, and each payer has different quality metrics that Allied must adhere to. This can be a headache to track and maintain, and Allied is currently using Diver to try and get a better handle on how it performs on various measures.
I talked to Andrew Phillips, director of quality management, about a new matrix he’s building in Diver that will enable Allied to track some of these quality measures. For example, the organization will be tracking patients who have/have not been in for well visits and those who have/have not gotten vaccines. Allied can then break it down doctor by doctor to see which physicians are getting their patients in the door, and those who might need some extra help or the insight that they are not meeting their goals.
Eileen Phelan, Allied’s director of revenue cycle management, joined me and Andrew for our conversation. She talked about the value of the Allied matrix, saying, “I know these measures are just what the carriers care about, but I like the Allied measures because they really show the focus on better quality health care.”
Different users, different uses
Another thing that resonated with me during my visit to Allied was how different users in the organization are able to access data with Diver in the form that they need it in order to make the decisions they need to make. People who immerse themselves in data can have straight access to the numbers. People who need to make quick decisions need the high-level overview with graphics.
For example, I spoke to Jeff Jones, a healthcare business analyst who works all day in ProDiver. ProDiver gives him the ability to root around and dive into the numbers. Jeff provides the various operations reports and is the “go to” person in the organization for special requests. He talked about how he is a “numbers guy” and appreciates that ProDiver gives him access to the data and lets him explore it in whichever direction he needs to.
Not everyone works well with numbers, though. There are some people who need a chart or graph in front of them so they can digest the data better. Robert talked to me about the value of Diver’s graphics. He says, “Putting it out there in a graph or a chart is useful, because we produce numbers ad nauseum, and doctors don’t have time to look at that. They can look at a sheet of paper and see a nice graph, understand what’s going on, and move on with their lives.”
That sentiment was echoed by Valerie Mayer, vice president of finance at Allied. She is using General Ledger Advisor, an application built on Diver Platform, in order to analyze the company’s finances. She is used to other financial systems and Excel and says General Ledger Advisor makes it easy for her to look at the numbers and dive down into them.
As someone who recently came to the company, Valerie says General Ledger Advisor helped her during the early days of her new job. “I know it’s made my transition here a lot easier, because the platform I came from had no analytical tool and it was difficult for me. Once I was given access to this, the sun rose and the angels sang. It’s a really great, easy to use tool.”
Odds and ends
- I am a big believer in the importance of culture in an organization, and I love the culture at Allied. The company has a feel that’s a lot like the feel here at Dimensional Insight. Focus on respecting its employees, partnership, and family. A great company to do business with.
- Usually on customer visits, I like to get a taste for the local atmosphere and do some sightseeing. However, since I have family on Long Island, there wasn’t much new for me to explore, except for the local Benihana. (Which was definitely fun! See this video for our server tossing shrimp into his hat.)
- If you want to read some press coverage on how Allied is using our technology, read this article in Healthcare Informatics or this one in Health IT Analytics.
- You can also read the complete Allied Physicians Group case study on our website.