The transition of more than 40 physicians from Novant Health to a collective of private practices in the Lake Norman area is akin to hitting the brakes on an expressway, turning around and driving against traffic, according one of those departing doctors.
Novant officials, meanwhile, say they plan to keep their foot on the accelerator and continue growing the Winston-Salem-based system’s offerings and patient base in northern Mecklenburg County, Mooresville and the Denver area.
The 42 physicians leaving some of Novant’s Lakeside Family Physicians and OB/GYN practices will collectively own the new practices, which are scheduled to open March 19 with operational guidance from the Tennessee-based Holston Medical Group, said Ehab Sharawy and David Cook, two of the doctors who are breaking away.
“We wanted to go back to private practice so that when we’re with a patient, our singular focus, the only thing that ties into our decision-making, is doing what’s best for that individual,” said Cook, a longtime Lakeside physician. “(The new group) provides a physician enterprise that’s not beholding to anything else but the patient.”
Novant officials said they are working to replace the departing doctors, and that they remain committed to the Lake Norman area.
“For any patient who chooses to stay with Novant, we will have more-than-adequate providers to care for them,” said Pam Oliver, president of the Novant Health Physician Network. “And we will continue to grow to meet the needs of the market.”
For the departing physicians, theirs was a move aimed at bucking a bigger-is-better philosophy in health care – and even creating a “Disney-like experience,” Cook said.
“It’s almost like you’re going down the highway at 70 miles an hour with the culture of health care,” Cook explained. “We’re making a U-turn, right on the highway.”
The primary goal of the breakaway group is to improve patient access and control costs in a local market where health care is relatively expensive, the physicians said.
“It doesn’t mean dumbing down medicine,” Cook noted. “It means providing excellent pathways to care: How do you get people into see a physician quickly? How do you get them into the right place? How do you get them care where they want care?”
Cook and Sharawy both emphasized that the emergency room should be the last option in most situations, but that it has become the primary entry point for many patients, especially those without insurance.
Not only do such unnecessary emergency room visits drive up costs, but patients often don’t get the specialized care they need, end up undergoing expensive tests they don’t need and fail to get follow-up attention to make sure they are getting better and stay that way.
“You’ve got to be accessible to patients,” Sharawy said. “(Lack of accessibility) is one of the biggest barriers to the delivery of health care. It becomes fragmented and you go to the easiest thing to get in to, and that’s usually the emergency room. ... What we really want to do is (ask), ‘How can we make you not have to come see us, keep you well, keep you healthy (and) when you’re not healthy, put you in the right place for care.”
Call Novant Health at 704-316-4140 or Holston Medical Group at 1-877-464-1213 for information.