Stronger together: Independent physicians band together to focus on delivering quality-centered care to their community 

By Celestino Garcia | April 19, 2023


Independent providers are a vital component of our healthcare ecosystem. But as the regulatory and technological landscape gets more complex, it can be difficult for independent practices to manage administrative requirements while staying focused on providing high-quality care for their patients.  

Independent Physicians of Wisconsin

Several years ago, Dr. Mohammad Khan, a private practice physician for over 25 years, noticed that physicians who wanted to remain independent needed help with this administrative burden. To preserve independent practices, Dr. Khan joined with five other providers and created Independent Physicians of Wisconsin (IPW) in 2016, a 23-provider multi-specialty medical group in the Milwaukee metro area, becoming its CEO and president. As Dr. Khan described them, these doctors “were either new providers who wanted to establish their own practice or those working within larger systems who were dissatisfied and were looking to move into independent practice.”

Keeping practices independent can be key to providing tailored care to patients. Dr. Khan believes independent physicians who are part of the communities they serve are invested in those communities and will be able to “provide less expensive and more quality-centered care to the community patients.”   

 In order to bring this independent, community-based care to as many people as possible, IPW needed to grow their number of providers. In its first three years, IPW had between six and 10 providers. But in just over three years, they’ve grown to 23 providers and added seven new locations. Additionally, Dr. Khan credits much of their growth to their partnership with athenahealth, and explained, “This year we will achieve 100,000 patient encounters, which is about 40% more than what we had in 2019 when we switched to athenaOne.”  

Helping independent providers take on challenges

One of the more daunting challenges physicians in independent practice face is keeping on top of the myriad management tasks involved in running a successful practice. From managing billing to quality reporting to patient communication, independent practices rely on electronic health record (EHR) solutions to provide high-quality care to their patients. Having tried at least five different EHRs throughout his career, Dr. Khan wanted to find one that could satisfy the needs of his independent practice while helping it grow. He was looking for more than a mere EHR solution. He was looking for a partner.  

 With athenahealth’s EHR and billing technology, Dr. Khan was able to improve not only provider satisfaction and effectiveness, but the patient experience. athenahealth’s data availability and advanced reporting helped enhance IPW’s ability to close care gaps and improve efficiency.  

Dr. Khan noted that the ability to share high-quality reporting has informed conversations about best practices during IPW’s regular provider meetings and “inspired healthy competition between providers that ultimately helped our patients to meet important care quality metrics.” Additionally, overall patient satisfaction improved substantially.  

Enhancing provider experience through partnership

The user experience with previous EHR systems could be hit or miss for providers, but the transition to athenaOne proved a game-changer. Since switching to athenahealth, Dr. Khan described a marked improvement in provider satisfaction. “Being a president and CEO, I remember when we were using another EMR, I used to get a lot of calls from providers not satisfied with it. Since we switched to athenahealth, it’s a rare day we get a call from an unsatisfied provider. Overall provider satisfaction has definitely improved significantly.”  

Physicians found that the immediate availability of high-quality reporting data provided by athenaOne freed them of administrative burdens and allowed them to focus on their patients. 

And Dr. Khan found the ease and low cost at which athenahealth services can be added and rolled out to independent providers to be particularly valuable. “We got into a position where we could introduce other features like chronic care management, remote patient monitoring, and telehealth needs as they arose,” Dr. Khan explained, adding, “I’m sure whenever there is a need for a new program, athenahealth will be there to help us.” This ability to scale up with ease has been critical for IPW’s rapid growth in recent years and would not have been possible without the ease of use of athenaOne.  

Continuing to grow while remaining independent

Growth remains a central component to IPW’s continued success, both in terms of number of providers and overall revenue. athenaOne's simplified onboarding process for new providers and practices has been a significant factor in facilitating IPW’s ability to expand in both of those areas.  

 Flexibility is also extremely important to IPW and its ability to grow. Dr. Khan knows their providers are independent-minded and don’t want services forced on them. The broad services offered by athenahealth afford IPW the ability to match services to interested providers. “We don’t force our providers to use every service,” Dr. Khan explained. “We choose one or two providers who are interested in a particular service. Once they’ve used it and can demonstrate their value, we can share the success with other providers, who then start using those services.”  

The desire to grow as an independent provider group is chiefly about the core belief that they can remain more connected to the patients and can offer more personalized care. This can prove challenging given competition from much larger provider groups in their area. It’s critical that IPW can demonstrate its value by providing high-quality healthcare at a reasonable cost. Through a partnership with athenahealth, IPW is able to focus less on solving complex administrative problems and more on its mission of providing “personalized healthcare close to home.”


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