The experiences of Milwaukee's Froedtert Health system during the past several weeks represent something of a microcosm of what the nation's healthcare system as a whole is going through.
The system discovered a virus in its computers, it opened a new $25 million outpatient facility and, most recently, it created a new clinical group practice by formally consolidating with a group it had a long-standing collaboration with—faculty physicians from the Medical College of Wisconsin.
The new group will operate at the 30 local clinics run by Froedtert and the Medical College. More than 250 physicians had more than 710,000 patient visits at those clinics in fiscal 2012, according to a Froedtert news release.
The new integrated practice will be known as Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Community Physicians. Dr. Mark Lodes, chief medical officer for the Froedtert & the Medical College Clinical Ventures Group, will lead the organization as its first president. There will be an eight-person board, with Froedtert and the college appointing four members each.
“This agreement is just the beginning. Many decisions will be made in the next six months to create the organization and its structure,” Lodes said in the release. “Our patient-centric care model uses data-driven best practice methods and aims to provide great value to our patients by delivering appropriate, timely care in the most cost-effective setting.”
It was noted in the release that one of the goals behind the agreement is to provide access to Medical College of Wisconsin physicians in a less costly setting than at its academic medical center. Froedtert Hospital spokeswoman Kathleen Sieja said the move was also driven by the previous acquisition of certain clinics where Medical College of Wisconsin physicians practiced.
“They were just sort of disparate groups that had to be aligned,” she said. “This is a more efficient method to do it.”
Sieja added that Froedtert “doesn't have plans to develop an accountable care organization with the Medical College of Wisconsin.”
Meanwhile, Froedtert Health also is dealing with a computer virus that was discovered this past December that “may have allowed an unauthorized person to access a Froedtert Health employee's work computer account,” according to an announcement on the Froedtert website.
“This was not a case where somebody stole a laptop,” Sieja said. “A computer virus, we discovered, got into some of our files that were stored in our network.”
It appears that no medical or financial records were accessed or affected, and no information appears to have been moved or copied, she said.
“The virus may have touched some of our other files,” Sieja said, so letters were sent to 43,000 patients and a call center was created to answer patient questions concerning the virus.
About the same time the virus was discovered, the Froedtert Health Menomonee Falls Clinic opened. Sieja said the facility replaces an existing clinic. Froedtert will lease the five-story 145,000-square-foot building that was built and is still owned by Ryan Cos. US, a national construction company.
The building houses 60 physicians and more than 250 people on staff, according to a news release.
It's the third building Ryan has built for Froedtert. It includes a pharmacy and a community room for health education classes. It offers cardiology, dermatology, eye care, primary care, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedics, pain management, podiatry, radiology, sleep medicine, surgery and other medical specialties.