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Thursday, April 14, 2016

MaryBeth Matzek: NOVO Health takes bundled health services directly to employers

By MaryBeth Matzek

Four Appleton specialty physician groups are teaming up to lower costs for employers.

The NOVO Health partnership works directly with employers, usually self-insured ones, to offer bundled care packages, charging one price for all services each procedure entails.

The idea to create the new, independent provider network came from area employers and local physicians, said NOVO CEO Curt Kubiak, who also leads Orthopedic & Sports Institute of the Fox Valley.

“We kept hearing we need better access at a lower price point,” he said, adding that OSI began offering bundled packages a couple of years ago. “We received a lot of positive feedback from that.”

NOVO Health brings together providers from Orthopedic & Sports Institute of the Fox Valley, Fox Valley Hematology & Oncology, Neuroscience Group and the NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin.

It offers 48 different orthopedic and 12 spine procedures or surgeries as bundled packages. With the bundled pricing, each procedure – let’s say a knee replacement – includes a single bill for the facility fee, surgeon fee, anesthesia, an overnight stay in OSI’s skilled nursing facility and physical therapy.

Employers benefit since they know the price upfront and only receive one bill, said Bob Zuleger, NOVO Health’s’ vice president of business development.

Businesses sign a no-fee contract with NOVO that allows employers use the bundled pricing offerings as much or as little as they want. If a worker uses the bundled service, the employer makes payments through a third party claims processor and then that sum is forwarded to NOVO.

“NOVO is offered in addition to an employer’s regular health insurance, but it gives them the option of using the bundled pricing if they want to,” Kubiak said. “So many employers are moving to being self-insured and they’re going to have to pay either way and if they know we can do a certain procedure at this fixed price, they find that very attractive.”

Getting other independent medical providers interested in what OSI was doing wasn’t too difficult, Kubiak said.

He said the Fox Valley’s two independent practices that focus on spine services saw what OSI had done with its bundling process and appreciated the ease of doing surgery there rather than local hospitals. Fox Valley Hematology & Oncology, which built its own facility next to OSI last year, is in the process of developing bundled services.

“Business owners, corporations and municipalities all want to keep oncology costs as low as possible to benefit their businesses, employees and communities,” said Timothy Goggins, FVHO’s chief medical officer. “With this in mind, we feel NOVO Health allows us to engage with these entities and create alternative payment models that make sense."

The cost savings from using NOVO’s bundled services are substantial, Kubiak said.

“Since we’re smaller, we can be more nimble and innovative and offer something like this,” he said. “The concepts of what we’re doing – offering bundled services – are not unique, but pairing that with direct contracts is something I don’t think is being done elsewhere in the state.”

Azco makes a move: Azco, an employee-owned industrial construction and fabrication company in Appleton, has moved its headquarters into a former Institute of Paper Chemistry building near Lawrence University in downtown Appleton.

During the past year, the company saw unprecedented growth and wanted to bring together its corporate office and fabrication department under one roof. Two other Azco facilities in the Fox Valley will stay open, but the company did decide to sell its former corporate headquarters in the Town of Menasha.

New names, same hospitals: During the past month, two Fox Cities hospitals underwent a name change. Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah is now ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah and Appleton Medical Center is ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton. The name changes are part of the Appleton-based ThedaCare health system’s rebranding campaign that includes new names for its seven hospitals.

The name change “helps reinforce that ThedaCare is one system and we are all connected. We like to say we have one hospital – with seven locations,” said Brian Burmeister, senior vice president for ThedaCare Medical Centers.

During the past two years, ThedaCare has been changing its hospitals’ names. Once the hospitals in Berlin and Wild Rose change their names later this spring, the transformation will be complete.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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