Last updated: June 01. 2013 1:27PM - 305 Views
Taylor Pardue
Staff Reporter

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Jonesville Family Medical Center began its partnership with Cornerstone Health Care Monday.

The partnership will allow Jonesville Medical to operate with valuable technical support from the Cornerstone organization while continuing to offer premier health care to its patients, according to doctors Evan Ballard, Will Ballard, and Bill Griffin of the center.

Cornerstone Health Care of High Point is a group of more than 360 physicians and mid-level health professionals representing a wide range of specialties, according to the company’s website. Cornerstone is owned and directed by physicians.

“One of our big incentives (for joining Cornerstone) is we want this practice to be here for the next 30 years,” said Dr. Bill Griffin. “In order to do that, we also could see that health care is moving forward. We as a small practice just can’t do some of the things that are needed to ensure the health of our patients in the future.”

“So we’re now part of a big team, and the team is fantastic,” Dr. Griffin said.

Dr. Evan Ballard said, “One advantage of our joining Cornerstone is it will change things less than we would be changed by some of our other options.”

The medical center looked at a variety of options for a partnership but decided on Cornerstone. Dr. Griffin said the center approached Cornerstone after weighing its options for a year. The final legal and corporate documents were signed on Thursday, April 4.

“We’ve been preparing for this for six months,” Dr. Griffin said.

Cornerstone is an Accountable Care Organization (ACO), part of a larger organization that gets paid based on the health of the people it takes care of, as opposed to payment visit by visit.

“There are financial incentives if you live up to this standard, then you get paid better than if you don’t,” Dr. Ballard said. “There are two or three in North Carolina, and this was one of the first.”

Ballard explained that with government requirements, insurance company requirements, and Medicare and Medicaid, the burden of reporting to all these agencies is heavy on a small private practice.

With Cornerstone’s help the center will be able to focus on medicine while letting its new partner handle the recording.

“Cornerstone really allowed us to do what we felt like we were currently doing and doing it well - being comprehensive, primary care doctors - and Cornerstone is oriented in that direction,” Dr. Ballard said.

“Cornerstone seems to be very much on top of what’s going on in in terms of paying for medical care and getting away from fee-for-service payment … and more toward what’s called fee-for-value,” Dr. Ballard said.

Dr. Ballard explained that fee-for-value lets doctors receive payment for keeping people healthy, not simply the number of appointments, procedures, or tests a person receives.

Dr. Ballard said the partnership will allow Jonesville to use a new system of electronic record keeping that Cornerstone provides. The official title is electronic medical records (EMR).

With the new database, medical records will be shared between the cooperating medical centers under the Cornerstone banner, allowing accurate record keeping to be done with patients who visit any of the centers.

“We are going to be using the same medical records as all the other practices so we can immediately communicate with any specialists who are part of Cornerstone,” said Dr. Griffin. “The organization from the ground up is looking at measures to track quality care. … All of this is sort of built into the way the system works.”

Dr. Griffin said the new system would allow the center to monitor how effective it is at treating ailments like diabetes and heart disease, as well as keeping up with regular appointments like immunizations and Pap smears.

“In accomplishing that, that just means that we’re going to be doing an even better job at really keeping up with what our patients need and make sure they are getting things on time.”

In preparation for the new system the medical center has had to cut back on their number of appointments for the present time, but Dr. Will Ballard said the reductions would be temporary.

Patients will also be able to view their own medical records via the EMR. As the connections with Cornerstone grow Jonesville Medical Center will have a new website where patients can log on and view the documents online.

Staff has undergone training in High Point on the new systems, and additional training on April 6 at the medical center in Jonesville.

IT professionals will be on site for some time to make sure the system transition is a success, but the doctors said the center will largely operate on its own with little influence from Cornerstone except for support.

“The idea is that we’re going to improve general quality of care and do it less expensively because the incentives for physicians are going to be oriented toward keeping people healthy,” Dr. Evan Ballard said. “Cornerstone is on the forefront of that.”

Cornerstone was recently ranked No. 5 in a list of the best employers in North Carolina among large employers statewide for 2013, according to its website.

To contact Taylor Pardue call 336-835-1513 ext. 15, or email him at tpardue@civitasmedia.com.

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