To: United Rheumatology Members and Investors
From: Max Hamburger MD President United Rheumatology
1) Membership passed the 180 mark in March. We curtailed travel and informational meetings during the winter months to avoid weather induced cancellations and not surprisingly growth was slower in January and February, but membership growth has resumed its brisk pace of last fall. For example, we added 8 new members just this past week.We are now seeing a good level of word of mouth interest. We will conduct more than 30 informational meetings in cities and communities across the country to introduce United Rheumatology to our colleagues. These will becarried out by both the Administrator’s Committee, and United Rheumatology physician leadership. We are particularly grateful to our Administrator’s Committee for their work on our behalf. The physicians reading this know very well that regardless of what it is that we bring home to our offices, it is the administrator that makes it work, that implements, that finds the real value.
We appreciate member referrals. We have converted referrals to active members more than 90% of the time. United Rheumatology growth is in all of our interest.
2) We have had to add to the United Rheumatology Staff. Happily we have gotten too big and busy to continue without such growth.
We have engaged Richard Pedersen to serve as Director of Network Growth as of April 1. Some of you will recognize Dick from his years as Director of Sales for TSI. Dick has followed the United story since October of 2014, and we have remained in close contact since he retired from TSI in the summer of 2015. I am very excited and pleased to have a man of his integrity, warmth, professionality and experience.
We are adding a part-time staffer, Josephine Oliver to provide support both on member services, and data collection and analytics. With Dick and Josephine on board, we will be engaging all current members to ensure you are fully aware of all of the value programs available.
We have also engaged Susan Childs as a consultant to the Administrator’s Committee. With decades of experience as a practice administrator, and then as a consultant to practices, Susan will work with us on the website to enhance its value in providing educational materials, on developing webinars, and also in performing practice audits and assessments. United will make Susan available to active practices for a one day visit to conduct a practice audit or review. The practice will provide direction as to the extent and direction of the desired review, and this service is offered at no charge to active members. Contact Amanda Byrnes via the UR website to set up your review.
The ability to extract and aggregate EMR data in a HIPAA compliant fashion is absolutely mission critical. I fully understand that the startup of this process has seemed daunting to some, and we are listening and doing our best to be as efficient as possible. I also understand that in this time of meaningful use, that your EMR may not be your favorite topic. That said, EMR data will be essential to substantiate our positions in any negotiations and contracting we undertake. As well, there is commercial value to the data. United is about to complete its first pilot commercialization contract, and is in discussions on three other agreements. We will announce details as contracts are finalized. Those who participated in the first project will receive a report and compensation in May.
For those of you who are considering acquiring a new EMR, we urge you to contact us about the value we can bring with our “most favored nation” agreement with TSI. TSI is known for the strength of its service, TSI is the only EMR vender whose President takes my calls whenever I need him. TSI is the only EMR committed to our sub specialty.
Regardless of what choice you make, I want to underscore how important it is that you secure a guarantee from your vendor for unfettered free of cost access to your data. It is also critical to check into the viability of any vendor. Recently multiple sources have reported for example that Practice Fusion (PF) has had a major cut in staffing, and some have reported an inability to contact the company. I have no knowledge of the status of Practice Fusion, but major staffing cuts and inaccessibility are warning signs. We have not been successful in trying to speak to anyone at PF after a year of trying. In my personal opinion it is a mistake to make cost the key concern when choosing an EMR. You must have access to your data, and should not sign that away to get a free EMR. There is no more important infrastructure decision than the choice of your EMR.
We have begun the process of building a Board of Directors. United needed to be sufficiently established to warrant the interest of the caliber of directors we seek. Many of you have met or heard Doug Tardio, who is now joined on the Board by Chris Kane, CEO, West Dermatology / Las Vegas Skin and Cancer (LVSCC) a multistate Dermatology Supergroup in the Southwest. Members of the steering committee will recognize that Chris served as part of the Manatt Consulting team. We are in communication with others from outside the membership who have experience in healthcare, and this may include experience in the payer community, and health care law. The Board will include United Rheumatology members as well, and as their agreements are finalized, their nominations will be announced. We need a strong board with a good rolodex, and we will find them.
3) United and Janssen have announced their GPO agreement to all eligible active practice members. Those practices who have been a participant with Janssen in their “pilot program” will continue as participants of those pilots until the end of 2016; all others who had not been a pilot participant have now been extended that opportunity through the Janssen- United GPO agreement.
4) The guidelines committee (the 23 members are posted on the website) has completed its work on Osteoporosis and Psoriatic Arthritis guidelines, and is nearing completion on RA, AS/SpA, and OA of the knee. The guidelines subcommittee on Ultrasound has commenced its work, and a subcommittee will soon start the development of gout guidelines. I am particularly grateful to Allan Gibofsky and Larry Edwards, for accepting an invitation to participate.
Why are our guidelines a major focus of attention and resources? From inception, our goal has been to support the independent practice rheumatologist to provide the standard of care to our patients.When we have a conversation with payers, those guidelines will serve as the concrete manifestation of our expertise, and our approach to the diagnosis and management of patients. While many organizations develop guidelines, and while ours will without hesitation reference such guidelines, there are several fundamental and distinguishing aspects for United Rheumatology.We are and will be committed to using and following our guidelines. The entire United Rheumatology membership will have the opportunity to read the manuscripts on the unitedrheumatology.org website and we will ask for your comment, feedback, and commitment. The guidelines process is not limited to being an academic exercise, but rather a robust memorialization of the consensus developed amongst your peers- they will say to every reader- here is how we take care of RA, PSA, etc. We are confident that you will readily be able to say to yourselves- yes, this is what I do, and this is how I do it. That is a very powerful statement.
5) United is proud to announce that it has signed a collaborative agreement with CuraScript and Matrix GPO. This agreement provides for United Rheumatology to have full and legal functionality as a GPO. This will expand our ability to bring programs and services of value.
6)What else is coming?
We are in conversations with another manufacturer to develop a pilot program that will bring value to UR members. We expect to announce this in June.
We have an agreement with Mandell and Associates to bring you their library of articles and books about practice operations and management. You will receive an informational package directly from Mandell in the near future.
United is about finding value through size, and about fulfilling our mission by working together. We are committed to serving you, and to working with you.