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CEO at One of Region’s Largest Physician Groups Charts Road Ahead for More Local Growth

Piedmont HealthCare is looking to expand its Charlotte-area presence this year with more doctors and office locations.

Statesville-based PHC plans to add 10 new doctors, plus support staff, and about three new offices in Mooresville, CEO Jeff Smith said. It is focused on filling out its Iredell County presence and accommodating continued growth along Interstate 77. Smith said PHC determined it needed more providers because of the workload and delays in scheduling appointments.

The medical group has a long list of specialties, including cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, podiatry and sleep medicine, to name a few. There are more than 1,000 employees, including 210 providers across 60 locations. The practice formed 25 years ago when Statesville Medical Group and Iredell Medical Associates merged.

PHC is now the Charlotte region’s fifth-largest physician group. Almost all of the doctors are shareholders.

“Here, they can have some say in the way medicine is practiced. We’re the supporting entity, rather than the controlling entity. Typically in a health system, it’s guys like me telling them what to do, but here I report to a board of doctors. It’s their company,” Smith said.

Dr. Joseph Moran, PHC board chairman, said the group has also added more ancillary services over the years to stay viable. Those range from radiology to physical therapy to urgent care. He said it continues to update technology, such as upgrades to CT scanners and MRI machines.

Moran also noted PHC’s accountable care organization, a group that provides coordinated care to Medicare beneficiaries to keep costs lower and maintain quality.

PHC served more than 130,000 patients last year. Its footprint stretches from Charlotte, west to Hickory, and past Statesville to Taylorsville and Mocksville.

A big part of staying competitive is finding the right locations, although Smith said that has been challenging. Patients, especially those within family medicine, want to keep the localized feel of their doctor’s office. His goal is to differentiate PHC with lower-cost, value-based care where the providers’ job is to keep patients well. He said cutting long-term costs may require more short-term spending.

“Once you get to Mooresville, that’s kind of the battleground. That’s where all the big boys play,” Smith said. “We watch what they do. If they continue to press north, we’ll continue to press south.”

Smith said Covid-19 did take a temporary toll on PHC, leading to about 40 furloughed employees, mostly in administrative positions. However, those employees were brought back a couple of months later. He said the practice was back to normal volume by last June and did not have to borrow money to stay afloat.

Last year, PHC stood up telemedicine in less than a week, Smith said. That option is still available. Moran said it’s a change that should’ve been implemented years ago. It’s a good platform to do quick check-ins with patients. It’s also good for older patients who have trouble coming into the office, he said. Smith said reimbursement from insurance companies will determine telemedicine’s long-term prevalence.

Smith noted the entrepreneurial spirit among PHC’s doctors. He wants the group to be another option for providers wanting to work outside of health systems.

“I would love for, in 20 years, this group to be here, independent and bigger than it is today, and I think it can be,” Moran said. “I think this group has staying power. I think this is the way health care should be done in this country.”

Source: Hudson, Carolina. Charlotte Business Journal. “CEO at One of Region’s Largest Physician Groups Charts Road Ahead for More Local Growth”, ana=TRUEANTHEMFB_CH&csrc=6398&utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A%20Trending%20Content&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR3NB4NYYpiwhDDa0_7IJVAriB8ZF3oGRtSuZWmukNX1c8FT1RE1xImLdI4.