Peach Tree Health Care preps for reform, reshuffles
Description: Not-for-profit community health care provider for low-income residents..
Based: Main clinic in Linda, clinics in Yuba City and Live Oak.
Annual patient visits: About 100,000.
Expected growth: About 25 percent more visits in the next few years, staff expected to grow by similar percentage.
Less than a year before health care reform goes into effect, Peach Tree Health Care is changing its philosophy and expanding services in hopes of being ready.
Whether the definition of being ready is seeing more patients, offering new services or adding more health care providers is still being determined, said Peach Tree Chief Executive Officer Greg Stone.
"We're changing the way we see patients and trying to make sure we don't clog up the system," he said. "That can be daunting."
Stone, who joined Peach Tree as CEO last summer, said for the not-for-profit group's patients, the biggest direct change they'll see is an approach meant to be more small and personal, and as interested in a person's overall health as much as the specific situation prompting them to visit.
With such an approach, he said, Peach Tree's providers will focus more on both preventive care and chronic disease management.
"We want a system of incentives to keep people healthy at home," he said, instead of a model where there are financial incentives to keep patients coming back.
But unknown variables will complicate reaching that goal. Stone said once reform goes fully into effect, it's likely to result in more patient visits, but the exact number is hard to pin down.
And with that is another question: How to staff to meet higher demand.
Stone said he struggled to find a primary-care doctor for his family when he came to the area, and the departure of two doctors in recent weeks from Peach Tree's clinic in Live Oak, leaving it with none, illustrate a problem especially common in rural areas.
If he increases his staff by 25 percent, he said, "that's hiring five to six full-time physicians. You hope you really do get paid the way you want to for that." But other service expansions are already in the works.
Not only will the clinic have an expanded pharmacy, he said, but directors will establish home-delivery prescriptions for patients with transportation difficulties. And the clinic will partner with an eye care clinic to offer low-cost optometry services, particularly for children, he said.
One of the clinic's regular patients, though, said she's afraid health care reform, also known as Obamacare, will be anything but better for people like her.
"I think they're going to be taking more from people like us on Social Security," said Leisa Stewart, a Yuba City resident.
"We get glasses for prescription, but we have to pay for it. And we don't make money for new glasses."
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