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Continuum will help lead transformation of medical care spurred by ACA

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Continuum Health Alliance is positioning itself to help lead a transformation of medical care that's being spurred by the Affordable Care Act.

Instead of being paid fees for their services, health care providers face a future where they are paid to deliver better population health – and physician-led Continuum is offering tools to help make that vision a reality.

Founded in 1998 by pediatrician Dr. John Tedeschi, Marlton-based Continuum provides practice management systems to medical practices, including billing, IT and human resource. A couple of years ago, Continuum also began providing clinical services. It supports accountable care organizations, which are the new model of medical care developed around the goal of better monitoring patient health and trying to keep people out of the hospital.

Dr. Christopher Olivia, president of Continuum, said the firm's population health services now account for less than 4 percent of revenue, but he predicted that will grow as the movement toward value-based health care accelerates.

He said Continuum is rebranding itself "to send a message to the world that we're changing our model to serve not just the business side of the practice but also the clinical side of the practice."

This will help physicians "achieve the triple aim: improved care for the patient, improved health for the community and a lower cost of care," he said.

He said Continuum "works at the point of care with the physicians. That's the heart of the company. It was founded by doctors. We've got a lot of physicians here in the company and we really pair the business people with the physicians."

Continuum is currently working with Walgreens, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and the Catholic Health East hospital system, Olivia said.

"And we have had discussions with quite a few other organizations from Maryland through Pennsylvania and into North Jersey" that he said would be disclosed when deals are reached.

He said Continuum provides both IT and people to enable ACOs and other clinically integrated health care organizations to coordinate the care that patients receive.

"We don't just measure data from a claims system and then say 'you should look at managing these patients.' We actually manage it in the office, at the point of care," he said.

Olivia said Continuum works with organizations that use electronic medical records, and will help the practice adopt EMR is they haven't already. Then, Continuum provides a technology platform that interfaces with the EMR in the physician's office to improve the coordination of patient care.

For example, if a patient comes into the office to treat a cold, the IT system can alert the physician if the patient is a diabetic who needs additional attention for that chronic condition.

Olivia said Continuum brings evidence-based medicine and best practices to the treatment of patients.

"Why is that important? Because what happens is all too often these things don't get addressed. And then you have a complication from your diabetes because it's not well managed, and you go into the hospital," he said.

Olivia said Continuum trains the medical practice staff to improve patient monitoring and has nurse care coordinators on staff who help patients navigate through things that can't be managed electronically.

"When you put them together they work together seamlessly to help the patient navigate the system and help the care giver understand what evidence-based science has to be applied at the point of care," he said.

Olivia said "We want to empower physicians to achieve that triple aim of better care for the patient, better health of the population and lower cost."

He said hospitals won't disappear: "We need good hospitals because some people have to be admitted to hospitals. But we need hospital partners who are thinking about how can we take care of the patients out in the community and do that better and do that in a coordinated fashion."

Ultimately, this transformation will stem the skyrocketing cost of health care "which is unaffordable: businesses and the government, they are all creaking under the cost of health care," he said.

Currently the core of Continuum is its practice management service.

He said the company serves about 1,000 doctors across the Garden State who employ a total of about 6,000 staff and have 2 million patient visits a year that generating about $750 million a year in medical claims.

Continuum has about 450 employees and he said there are doctors and nurses "woven through the organization. At the end of the day we want better care for the patient and we want them to be able to afford the care because if they can't afford the care, it doesn't matter how good it is."

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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