An interview with Jurgen van der Heijden, Board Member at Synchroon and owner of a General Practitioner practice
The cordiality at General Practitioner Practice (GP Practice) Nistelrode, the GP practice where Jurgen van der Heijden is working, is immediately evident. An open and positive atmosphere. And that's the way Van der Heijden likes to work. Van der Heijden describes the way of working at Care Group Synchroon as lean and mean, where a pragmatic mentality is associated with higher quality of care within the care network.
Similar to many other care groups, Synchroon initially started as a diabetes care program collaboration. "The initial cooperation at the start of the program seamlessly transitioned into a care group. The 116 regional general practitioners quickly joined the care group and from there we went through a rapid transition. An important precondition was that every physician that joined employed a physician’s assistant". Care Group Synchroon was founded in 2008 and serves a total of about 250,000 patients in a region in the South of the Netherlands.
Cooperation with Bernhoven Hospital
After the diabetes program was operational, Synchroon continued with care programs for COPD and cardiovascular risk management. "The decision to start these programs with the complete care group was made quickly. GPs from different regions knew where to find each other and together we endorsed the same starting point for care and the organizational structure around it." The communication lines between the hospital and the care group are very short and both the hospital and GPs are keen on collaboration within and between primary and secondary care. "Of course it requires attention to detail and it takes effort to have everyone moving in the same direction, but in general it is not that hard to do." Meanwhile, elderly care and mental health care are also tagged as important programs for integrated, collaborative care, where cooperation between care providers within the network is very important.
Pragmatic and down-to-earth mentality
The board members of Care Group Synchroon are all General Practitioners and are geographically distributed over the region in which the care group operates. “The advantage of this setup is that all GPs in the region personally know at least one of the board members. This leads to better mutual understanding and better awareness of the actualities in the region. Besides this we literally discuss everything at the kitchen table of the president of the board. This illustrates the personal level of our working relationships. We know each other well and do not have a large office of employees that are not familiar with the care provider’s workplace.” Care Group Synchroon has no employees, but often works with freelancers for management and IT projects. Board members each have their own focus. For Van der Heijden this is IT, data management and finance.
Expansion with IT
The care group had already been monitoring chronic disease indicators for Diabetes, COPD and cardiovascular risk for quite some time. They worked together with care network partners, usually independent care providers that are members of umbrella organizations. For these partners, communication within the network proved to be a difficult challenge. “To solve this problem we decided to look for a Collaborative Health Management (CHM) system and we started a selection process, with a selection team consisting of network partners, GPs and physician assistants.” After reviewing various CHM systems, Synchroon decided to choose the CHM solution of VitalHealth Software. “We quickly noticed that besides adding value through - for instance - extensive possibilities for decision support, VitalHealth CHM also had solid company behind it.”
Getting started with VitalHealth
Synchroon initially started with the Diabetes module of VitalHealth CHM and decided quickly thereafter to expand with the modules COPD and cardiovascular risk management. Given the size of the care group, they chose to use their own project leader next to the project manager of VitalHealth. "The project leader knows the nuances between the care groups and can easily facilitate contact with both end users as well as the CHM supplier VitalHealth. Potentially critical issues can be addressed at an early stage.” The implementation went quite fast. We started with a smaller number of practices as pilot sites to address and improve any issues before the large scale rollout. During the implementation the CHM has been directly integrated with physician EHRs. “And currently the Bernhoven Hospital, Synchroon and VitalHealth are discussing an integration between the CHM and the Hospital Information System.”
New care programs
In the past decade, the responsibilities of physicians have increased significantly, certainly in the area of chronic disease care. Many of these responsibilities have shifted from secondary to primary care. A recent example of these changes can be found in mental health care and elderly care. "Synchroon is future-oriented and therefore we are usually prepared for future developments early-on. This makes it easier for us to tackle changes."
The changes in primary care based mental health and elderly care are addressed by the entire care group to ensure that the care programs and related support are available to all GPs and network partners. VitalHealth CHM provides support with a Mental Health and an Elderly Care module, in addition to the already existing modules for Diabetes, COPD and cardiovascular risk management. "We are working on a pilot for senior care. Next to that we are discussing a module for mental health care involving participants both inside and outside the care group. The goal is to set up a good structure for primary mental health care in our region. VitalHealth CHM can play an important role in reaching this objective.”
"VitalHealth is a trusted company that delivers on promises and agreements, avoiding unpleasant surprises. VitalHealth thinks from the user’s perspective; how the user eventually will be working with the solution. They strive for a design with optimal ease-of-use within a set of pre-defined frameworks.” says Jurgen van der Heijden.