Writing the next chapter

Thursday, September 01, 2016 12:19 PM
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A letter from Steve ErkenBrack to Colorado physicians

by Steve ErkenBrack, President & CEO, Rocky Mountain Health Plans

For 42 years, Rocky Mountain Health Plans (Rocky) has been working alongside physicians to provide access to high-quality health care for all across our Colorado communities. This has been our core mission, with a focus on access for everyone, collaboration with providers, and a continual effort to improve the quality of patient care and our health care systems.

These efforts do not exist in silos; rather, they are braided together to form the core of one of the most successful health care delivery models in the country.

With this spirit and focus throughout the decades, together we have been able to help develop and implement team-based, patient-centric initiatives, such as:

  • Medical Practice Review Committees in which Rocky convenes regional physicians for peer review sessions to attain localized best practices and insight;
  • Quality Health Network, formed jointly by Rocky and physicians to create a community-wide health information exchange;
  • Loan repayment programs to support the recruitment and retention of quality primary care physicians to the Western Slope;
  • Learning Collaboratives to help physicians transform their practices with new tools and technology;
  • Medicaid Prime, the successful restructure of both the delivery system and payment model that integrates behavioral health and health coaches into primary care; and
  • Monument Health, a lower-cost and higher-value clinically integrated network for individuals and employers of any size.

Rocky has not accomplished these achievements alone. That’s the point. We have succeeded only by working together with physicians and other partners in our communities. In doing so, we have built what is seldom seen: a community-based health insurance carrier. 

This summer, Rocky announced our intent to continue our mission by joining UnitedHealthcare, as a subsidiary, at the end of the year, subject to regulatory review and approval. The news surprised many, as the two plans are indeed different. However, both organizations share the same vision: to serve all lines of business, to work closely with independent physician practices, and to enhance the quality of the delivery system by aligning technology and time-tested relationships.

When state-of-the-art population health management tools are funneled through the community relationships of Rocky, you create a health system of the future that can be a benefit to all communities, not just major metro areas where high-performing, fully-integrated networks operate in a separate system, but in smaller communities with independent health delivery providers that – like Rocky – are part of the fabric of the communities in which they live. 

We know change can be hard, and questions are understandable, but I ask you to consider this: Each member of Rocky’s 14-person community-based Board of Directors, including four physicians, support this proposed partnership; the Board of the Rocky’s Foundation unanimously support this opportunity; and both my CEO predecessors (Rocky has only had three CEOs in four decades), Mike Weber and John Hopkins, join me in supporting this alignment. Why?

Because both organizations know the key to the success of this alignment is not to erode the brand and relationships of Rocky with physicians, but rather to enhance them – all for the sake of your patients, our members, and our Colorado communities. It’s where our focus has always been, and will continue to be. Rocky must stay true to what it is and where it is in order to infuse the successes of the past with the power of the partnership. We will still be based in Grand Junction with a primary focus on Western and rural Colorado. We will still be committed to our neighbors who get their care through Medicaid and Medicare, as well as those in our commercial populations. Rocky will still deliver the same high quality service when the physicians and our members call. 

We ask the physicians of Colorado to embrace the potential of this partnership, the positive aspects of this change, and the opportunities that will exist for all of us as we write this next chapter together. Because, “together” has always been the watchword of our mission.

Posted in: Colorado Medicine | Practice Evolution | Payment Reform | Interacting With Payers


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