Lexington Clinic Becomes Only AAAHC Accredited Medical Group Practice in Kentucky

MD-UPDATE sat down with Dr. Robert L. Bratton, chief medical officer, and Mr. Tom Thomas, senior director of quality and performance improvement, to discuss the AAAHC accreditation recently awarded to the Lexington Clinic physician group.

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MD UPDATE: Dr. Bratton and Mr. Thomas, can you describe the significance of the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) accreditation for the Lexington Clinic physician group?

BRATTON: Lexington Clinic provides the highest quality of care to our patients, and AAAHC accreditation allowed us to compare all aspects of care to national benchmarks. It was not about putting a banner on the building; it is about providing excellent care to our patients.

THOMAS: The accreditation brings a great sense of pride to the employees, staff, and physicians at Lexington Clinic. AAAHC collects the best standards and practices for medicine from the CDC, Best Practices, HIPAA, and OSHA. Through the effort and dedication of our team, we have achieved this recognition.

BRATTON: Similar to Joint Commission accreditation for hospitals, AAAHC is the governing body for ambulatory care in the multi-specialty clinic setting.

THOMAS: Another reason for choosing this type of accreditation is that the AAAHC reviews independent physician groups, like Lexington Clinic.

Tell us about the AAAHC process at Lexington Clinic.

BRATTON: Preparations began in 2009 with a three-pronged process first focused on patient and employee satisfaction. The second prong measured quality indicators against national benchmarks. The third prong involved validation, and this is the AAAHC accreditation. When Tom joined the team in 2012, he infused enthusiasm and focus to drive Lexington Clinic toward our goal, as did Dr. W. Ben Kibler, the Physician Champion in the process.

Describe the role of the Physician Champion.

BRATTON: We needed a leader. A physician that was actively seeing patients to understand the commitment required for the AAAHC accreditation process and one that could foster buy-in and acceptance with colleagues was essential. Dr. Kibler is a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon and has been with Lexington Clinic for more than 37 years. He is well respected by the other physicians and staff and his leadership was instrumental in achieving the goal.

THOMAS: A key component of preparation was internal communication. The preparation and implementation were rigorous, and it was important that all team members be committed to these efforts to not only achieve the accreditation, but to prepare the organization for the future. AAAHC provided our team with a handbook addressing all areas of care and Dr. Kibler formed a committee around each area, whether facilities and environment, safety, and quality. There were more than 600 standards addressed. Multiple visits to each site for mock surveys further ensured team readiness.

Is Lexington Clinic the only physician group in Kentucky with AAAHC accreditation?

THOMAS: That is correct. There are ambulatory surgical centers and dental offices, but Lexington Clinic is the only physician group in Kentucky with AAAHC accreditation.

The Lexington Clinic Surgery Center already has AAAHC Accreditation, what does the physician group accreditation add?

THOMAS: The surgery center receiving accreditation was a terrific precursor to the physician group earning the accreditation. We think of ourselves as a team and when standardization is addressed, it is important that every department and every specialty be involved in the process. Lexington Clinic is a team.

BRATTON: There’s another side to this question. As insurance companies move toward new reimbursement models, the companies evaluate the quality of care provided to patients. The AAAHC accreditation is recognized as a symbol of quality care.

Did the AAAHC survey team find any areas for improvement?

THOMAS: There is always room for improvement. The process allowed us to immediately address any areas needing further attention, and our team was very proactive and did extremely well.

“State-of-the-art” and “quality care” are broadly used terms. Can you be more specific about how “quality care” is implemented here on a daily basis?

BRATTON: It comes down to the care of our patients and the patient experience. There are many government quality initiatives and benchmarks to which we can compare ourselves, but it’s not about recording numbers, it’s about how we care for patients and if they receive positive outcomes.

THOMAS: It’s not just about taking care of the sick patients. It’s also preventative medicine. How well are we doing to keep people from becoming ill?

Can you give me a sense of patient volume at Lexington Clinic?

BRATTON: Lexington Clinic has more than 2000 patient visits per day and those patients are seen by our more than 200 providers at 35 locations across Central and Southeastern Kentucky. Most of the care is in Fayette County, and we have offices in areas such as Nicholasville, Danville, Richmond, Somerset and Frankfort as well.

Is more growth planned?

BRATTON: Our associate plan is very successful and has attracted highly talented groups. Kentucky Ear, Nose and Throat and Commonwealth Urology have joined Lexington Clinic as associate practices, as well as other smaller groups. Lexington Clinic is well suited for the physician uninterested in hospital-employed practices.

THOMAS: It is very difficult for physicians in private practice to stand alone. The size and offerings of our group enables those practices to become a part of the Lexington Clinic system while continuing to deliver care in their respective area. Lexington Clinic is one of the largest and oldest physician-owned practices in Kentucky. (Editor’s note: Lexington Clinic was founded in 1920)

BRATTON: One of the very unique points of difference for Lexington Clinic is that our board is comprised of ten physicians, making us wholly physician-owned and operated.

In the current health care model, how does AAAHC accreditation impact you?

THOMAS: Navigating the ever-changing healthcare environment independently can be challenging. However, an accrediting body like AAAHC stays current with the constantly changing standards and practices in healthcare and allows us to manage those changes into the future as well.

What does a three-year accreditation cover?

THOMAS: Lexington Clinic will continue to offer the best patient care at all times. As part of our accreditation, AAAHC can visit our sites for an unscheduled evaluation at any time. It is important that we continue to maintain the standards and processes implemented during the accreditation process.

BRATTON: Simply put, AAAHC accreditation aligns Lexington Clinic with the goals of the patient, the goals of the payer, and the goals of the government. Lexington Clinic in a better position by achieving this kind of national benchmark, and our focus can continue to be on quality patient care.