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Focus on Quality Drives Growth for SoFHA

Posted by on Apr 9, 2021

State of Franklin Healthcare is not a company looking to get bigger for the sake of getting bigger. Instead, the mission is to develop a patient-centered culture focused on reducing costs, providing better quality, and improving the patient experience.

“We measure twice and cut once,” said SoFHA CEO Rich Panek. “We don’t grow just to grow. So we’re very deliberate about what we do. Culture trumps everything.”

Rich Panek, CEO – State of Franklin Healthcare Associates

With that being said, the substantial growth SoFHA has experienced as of late supports a maxim attributed to Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy – if you get better, the demand will be there for you to get bigger. SoFHA’s recent merger with Mountain Region Family Medicine is a prime example of calculated, targeted growth driven by a shared commitment to preserve and expand options for top-notch, patient-centered care in our region.

Far from a shotgun wedding, SoFHA’s new partnership with Mountain Region was simply the next logical step in a relationship that dates back to 2013. “It became evident that these two groups worked very well together and were very collaborative and cohesive,” Panek said. “So the next natural step seemed to be coming together under one umbrella.”

Mergers can be a cause for concern for patients who naturally wonder how a business agreement might affect the relationship they have developed with their primary care physician, but Panek said the merger won’t affect the doctor/patient/nurse relationship that serves as the core of the primary care model. Instead, patients can expect more resources to help them achieve better health.

“What SoFHA does is it provides a platform for care coordination and brings resources to the table to assist the existing groups to provide a better service for their patients,” Panek said. “What we don’t do is change everything between the patient and their physician. What we try to do is enhance that.”

Patients being served by Mountain Region in Sullivan County and Southwest Virginia can expect better access to their medical information, dietary consults, social workers, and care coordinators. If a patient is unable to leave their home, SoFHA offers home visit teams. Clinically trained doctors of pharmacy are available to provide medication review and management for patients, and Dr. Rick Hess is a valuable resource who will now be available to assist diabetics.

“We bring a whole team of other providers that the physician didn’t have access to before,” Panek said. “We use our size and scope of our services to wrap ourselves around them.”

In addition to the merger with Mountain Region, SoFHA has also expanded into Greeneville and Elizabethton to help meet needs in the patient population. The desire to improve care also led SoFHA to establish a Comprehensive Breast Center and an Imaging Center, which sit side-by-side on Sunset Drive in Johnson City.

Struggles to get patients access to imaging equipment in a timely manner first led to the investment in a new Comprehensive Breast Center, where the goal is to provide a patient with a lump in her breast with a biopsy and diagnosis within 24 hours. SoFHA is working hard to make the new center a Breast Center of Excellence.

Similar lags in scheduling led to the formation of the new imaging center, which offers patients quick access to MRIs, CT scans, and other diagnostic equipment in an efficient, comfortable setting at a much lower cost.

Panek said the recent growth has been a challenge, but the staff at SoFHA has stepped up and delivered by ensuring the organization’s quality and standards have remained intact. In turn, Panek believes SoFHA is positioned well for whatever the future may hold.
“We’re members of the community, we’ve been here a long time, and we’re not going anywhere,” he said. “We’re a legacy group, and we plan to be here 20 years from now.”