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    Christian Green
    Christian Green, MA
    An MGMA Better Performer in Operations, Mercer Health Medical Group was founded in 2001 and is based in the town of Coldwater, in west-central Ohio, near the Indiana border. The practice has 33 providers (15 physicians; 18 APPs) and 107 staff, which includes front office, clinical, leadership, revenue cycle management and care management in 14 locations in two counties. In 2021, the group provided approximately 65,000 office visits to patients and members of the community.

    Like Cone Health, Mercer Health Medical Group is investing in its providers. In response to recent staffing and provider retention challenges, Vice President of Provider Practices Martin Shehan recognized that the group needed to set itself apart based upon unique relationships between providers and the organization. “You have to think outside the box and … be willing to try untraditional strategies,” he said.

    A key component of that accommodation, according to Shehan, is the unique relationship Mercer Health Medical Group has cultivated with its providers. “We view our employed providers as business partners, not employees,” he said. “Yes, we pay their salary, so technically they’re employees, but more importantly, the employed providers are our customers. The leadership works with the employed providers as business partners.” This means that the management team is the business/operations partner and the employed providers are the clinical partner.

    As such, the practice goes above and beyond to accommodate its providers and treat them with respect. This starts by promoting a pleasant work environment. “We work hard to make the workplace as enjoyable as possible by ensuring everyone has the resources needed to do their jobs,” Shehan said. “We try to align the staff and providers to develop the best teams possible.”

    A prime example is involving employed providers in the interview and selection process for staff and provider candidates who might be working in their practice location. Shehan asserted that employed providers aren’t necessarily looking at candidates’ technical competencies. Rather, they are assessing candidates from a social perspective and asking, “Is this someone I seem to have things in common with, and I would look forward to working with?” he noted about the importance of hiring individuals who mesh with the team.

    As burnout increased during the pandemic, some providers and staff wanted to reduce the number of hours they work, to spend more time with their families. Having respect for work-life balance, Mercer Health Medical Group came up with a unique way to accommodate this request: The medical group attempts to match providers who make this request with staff members and providers who are looking for the same type of arrangement, so that they can work shifts together.

    Finally, Mercer Health Medical Group strives to maintain transparency in communication and prioritizes open communication. Beyond the standard team huddles and all-staff meetings, the practice offers lunch-and-learn sessions, customer service training, clinical competency training, presentations by partnered insurance payers, and assessments of clinical quality outcomes. The medical group also holds monthly physician advisory council meetings, where, according to Shehan, they “review the network’s key performance indicator (KPI) reports, such as revenue cycle management (RCM), financial performance and quality measure reporting.”

    Mercer Health Medical Group also asks for provider input on policies and procedures, quality measures, clinical protocols and operations to ensure providers have a voice in shaping the work environment. Much of the information from these meetings is then shared with the entire provider group during quarterly all-provider meetings, in addition to educating providers on quality reporting, coding and documentation, regulatory changes, and quality measures reporting.

    Shehan stressed that this meeting is a good opportunity for the medical group to recognize providers for their hard work: “We talk about success stories of how some providers have been more successful in improving their quality measure outcomes … so others can use this information,” he said. “Many times we find a provider is delivering the service, but there may be a problem with how they report the information in the organization’s EHR.” 
    Christian Green

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