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Rochester IPA grows after slow start

Healthcare reform news often gets dominated by reports from Washington, so when significant events occur quietly in places like Rochester, N.Y., they can get overlooked.

On the physician affairs desk, spring means trying to make sure I don't miss annual reports from the Federation of State Medical Boards and the American Medical Association, which are usually released under the radar. So now I sheepishly report on a document released a few weeks ago: the 2010 Value Report (PDF) from the Greater Rochester Independent Practice Association. In my defense, I must note that it's the first such report GRIPA posted in three years.

GRIPA made headlines in 2007 when it became the second clinically integrated IPA to get the Federal Trade Commission's blessing. But since then, it has struggled to find clients.

Having been shunned by local health plans, it sought large, self-insured employers to contract with, but only landed two: LiDestri Foods, a 700-employee specialty-food manufacturer and the 7,514-employee Rochester General Health System of which it's a part.

The organization used information technology extensively and created a database showing the promise of a better way to deliver healthcare. But GRIPA had trouble proving its trademark slogan: "Healthcare could look like this." Its patient pool was apparently too small to create a large enough data stockpile to satisfy some potential clients' concerns that it could deliver as promised, Dr. Eric Nielsen, former GRIPA chief medical officer, said last year.

But now, according to its report, GRIPA's chronic condition-management program has accumulated enough results to show that its 843 member doctors and two affiliated hospitals know what they're doing. Perhaps more important, patients think so. The report cites a 95% satisfaction rate and says nearly 70% of GRIPA members believe their physical and/or mental health has improved.

Buried in the report is news that GRIPA has another client, the Rochester-based payroll and human resources outsourcing company Paychex. Apparently, in a move not widely publicized, Paychex—the former employer of GRIPA's COO, Bill Pelino—contracted with GRIPA last August to coordinate care for employees with chronic and "high-cost" conditions.

Paychex has 3,575 employees working at eight locations in the Rochester area. Although that in itself is a significant number, the company also has some 100 branch offices in the U.S. If Paychex bosses are happy with what they see in Rochester, it would be interesting to see whether they try to replicate those results for its 8,525 other employees scattered across the land. That's not unlikely, as Paychex was recognized last June by the National Business Group on Health as one of 66 winners of its "Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles" award.

Pelino thinks so as well.

"GRIPA's approach can certainly go beyond the Rochester footprint," he says. "So there's certainly an opportunity to work with the other offices of Paychex."

Pelino, by the way, takes no credit for the deal. "If I wasn't at GRIPA, would they sign the contract?" he asks. "Yes, absolutely."

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks