Back in the late 1980s and 90s, a major change emerged in pediatrics.
Hospitals, including Akron Children’s, were looking at ways to increase market share and meet the changing wants and needs of new medical residents getting ready to enter the workforce.
“Hospitals were training hard-working, talented doctors who wanted a new practice model that allowed them more predictable hours and a better work/life balance,” said Bob Howard, retired vice president of business development at Akron Children’s Hospital. “They didn’t want to go into the private practice model as it existed at that time.”
In 1995, Dr. Carolee Luecken approached Howard about buying her practice upon her retirement. The decision to purchase her practice solidified the plan for Children’s Hospital Physician Associates, now called Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics.
Howard and Mark Watson, who was vice president of pediatrics at the time, recruited Dr. Ellen Kempf to take over Dr. Luecken’s practice.
“I was heavily involved in recruiting other pediatricians – many of whom are still there today,” said Dr. Kempf, who was the first ACHP medical director. “To ACHP’s credit, its goal was always to get good doctors who were committed to sound clinical practice, establishing performance improvement guidelines and building a quality foundation.”
Today, ACHP has 23 offices in 11 counties and employs roughly 450 people, including 120 providers. The newest office is in Richland County, and a second office in Warren will open this summer, which will bring the number of offices to 24.
A major selling point of ACHP was the shared call between offices.
“Physicians who were used to being on call every few nights now only had to take call every 5 weeks at a minimum,” Watson said.
Another perk was the nurse phone triage line called Children’s After Hours that screened evening calls for the pediatricians.
Like many other pediatricians, the idea of joining ACHP greatly appealed to Dr. Jennifer Dwyer, the current ACHP medical director.
“I liked the idea of taking care of my patients and not having to worry about the business end of things like dealing with insurance companies,” Dr. Dwyer said.
As healthcare continues to evolve, ACHP changes as well.
“We are constantly evaluating what we can do to meet and exceed our patients’ needs,” said Ben Teske, the operations director for ACHP. “We’ve added evening and weekend hours at most of our offices and we’re evaluating the use of more walk-in appointments. We also offer online access to medical records and scheduling.”
From the medical side, Dr. Dwyer sees more case management, social services and advanced practice providers in the future of medicine.
“I spend more time on chronic disease management and prevention,” Dr. Dwyer said. “It takes more time, but in the long run it will help save healthcare dollars.”
About Kathy Johnson
Kathy Johnson is a freelance writer, editor and public relations consultant with nearly 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry.