For Dr. John Scheitler, a primary care doctor in Gastonia, North Carolina, life feels like the movie Groundhog Day. Every day he tries to do right by his patients and hopes he’s done enough to keep himself and his family safe.
But back in March, this didn’t feel routine.
“I felt like I was on the floor of the stock exchange,” he said. “When COVID-19 hit the U.S, our practice received new updates and safety guidelines from the CDC and DHHS every hour – how to do testing safely, who to test, how to create employee and patient safety policies. It was very frantic and chaotic.”
His practice adapted at every turn. They adopted new safety procedures and learned how to provide telehealth to their patients.
“It’s given us a perspective that we need to stay nimble. We need to be ready to pivot quickly according to the needs of our patients and practice.”
When the state went into lockdown, patient visits dropped sharply. Working at a busy, independent practice, John was concerned about its future. Like many primary care practices, having a strategic collaboration with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Aledade proved instrumental.
“As an independent practice, we don’t have a big company to prop us up or float us for a while. We had concerns about how long this would be sustainable,” he said. But by participating in an accountable care organization (ACO) through Blue Cross NC and Aledade, he was able to keep his focus on patients.
“Every decision my wife and I make is layered. What’s the risk to my health, on an individual level, if I get sick? And more importantly, what’s the risk to my patients, providers and practice if I get sick?” he said.
As the pandemic continues, John is working to keep his patients in good health. Helping patients manage their chronic conditions, continuing to provide cancer screenings, and offering whole-person care, he said, are more important now than ever.
“It highlights the need for everyone to work together. The medical community, payers, society, government. Everyone,” he said. “The longer this goes on, the more we realize that whether we want to be or not, we are a community. The quicker we can work collectively, the quicker this will be behind us.”
Primary care providers across North Carolina are in a financial crisis. At Blue Cross NC, we had a duty and a desire to act. Our Accelerate to Value Program was created to help primary care providers stay in business and improve their ability to provide the highest quality care to their patients.