By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Palomar Pomerado Health and Centre for Health Care have formed a partnership — Arch Health Partners — effective this month.
The new partnership will give the two medical entities a stronger financial negotiating position, which should result in hiring almost a half-dozen more primary care physicians by year’s end, according to officials.
While patients will not see their rates lower, they will also not increase, according to Victoria Lister, CEO at Centre for Health Care, who will be the executive director at Arch Health Partners (AHP).
“What certainly will not change is the quality of their care,” Lister said. “Patients will still be able to see their Centre for Health Care physicians in the same offices.”
Centre for Health Care’s Ramona office is at 1236 Main St.
What patients should eventually see is a decrease in the time it takes to schedule an appointment with their primary care physician and for physicals.
Lister said patients with non-life threatening emergencies have already been able to see a physician by going to urgent care and waiting up to a few hours.
“(But) if they want to see their primary care physician for a chronic condition, the appointment, if not (made) the day they left (the office), can take up to two weeks,” Lister said. “Physicals are usually available within 14 days, but some have gone beyond.”
She said AHP’s goal is to have enough physicians so a regular visit can be available within the week requested and to fill appointments for physicals within a 14-day window. Centre for Health Care has 38 physicians on staff and contracts with several specialists.
The partnership will also enable the medical group to expand its patient population — currently 150,000 patient visits occur annually between Centre for Health Care’s Ramona and Poway locations — and its facilities. She said they are considering expanding to PPH’s satellite clinic when built in Rancho Penasquitos as well as locations in Escondido and San Marcos.
Dr. Robert Trifunovic, PPH’s medical staff development officer, said PPH wanted to join forces with Centre for Health Care because state rules prevent PPH from directly hiring physicians.
This means that, when patient demand exceeds physician availability, the public hospital district has to ask medical groups, such as Centre for Health Care, if they would like to hire more doctors.
“(If rejected,) then we’re stuck, as is the community at large,” Trifunovic said.
The collaboration also gives Arch Health Partners a better negotiating position with insurance companies than PPH or Centre for Health Care had individually, since it is a larger entity. This will also help when getting other funding, such as from the federal government, he said.
The move will also help medical personnel from both groups work together when providing comprehensive care. In addition, the plan is to eventually make their separate records systems compatible, so patients can have electronic health records that easily pass between inpatient and outpatient care.
“This in no way forces (Centre for Health Care) patients to use PPH facilities,” Trifunovic said, but adding that it will improve care PPH provides.
He said PPH entered a similar but less extensive agreement in the mid-1990s with other area medical groups and the new collaboration’s model has been implemented before in California.