When CU Health Partners formed an affiliation with King Soopers and The Little Clinic (TLC) in 2011, it marked a new chapter in the continuum of care for patients along the Front Range. This affiliation was the result of leadership at King Soopers collaborating with Stefannie Emerson, vice president of Business Development and Planning at University Physicians, Inc. and Tina Finlayson, MD, associate dean of Clinical Affairs at the School of Medicine. (Pictured from L to R: Patty Wikler, RN, Krysta Jamroz, CTA, Brian Bacak, MD)
The connection between King Soopers, a Colorado company with a commitment to promoting health and wellness for people in Colorado, and University of Colorado, another name associated with the same commitment, seemed natural. CU Health Partners, which includes the School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and School of Pharmacy, partnered with TLC for patient care and teaching opportunities.
Several years later and TLC, owned by the Kroger Corporation, now operates out of 16 King Soopers sites across the Front Range. Their board-certified nurse practitioners and physician assistants offer patients in the community episodic acute care, immunizations, travel services and health and wellness support.
Brian Bacak, MD, associate vice chair for Clinical Affairs, Family Medicine, is one of the main facilitators of the CU–TLC partnership.
“This affiliation represents a force multiplier for the health and wellness of our patients,” Dr. Bacak explained. “Our goal is to make people healthier, and our relationship with TLC allows patients to receive certain types of care with a trusted partner, at a time convenient for the patient.”
In addition to its convenience, TLC care complements care patients receive from primary care physicians.
This depends on shared information between the two organizations: TLC now has read-only access to Epic patient files, and CU can access TLC’s electronic health record system, eClinicalWorks, through Epic Care Everywhere.
“This is one of the reasons we partnered exclusively with TLC,” explained Dr. Bacak. “They expressed an interest in working with us on a system level and have been a great partner.”
Dr. Bacak says that sharing information across systems is significant for patients. “It makes TLC a key part of the continuum of care,” he said.
“The Little Clinics augment, rather than substitute, what is provided in a primary care office, by expanding access. When a patient has a minor ailment and our clinics are closed, options are either Urgent Care or the ED. This is where TLC is a great option – it frees up our emergency services for those who really need it.”
Health and wellness is also an important part of the relationship. Dr. Bacak has been working closely with King Soopers pharmacists, dieticians and health and wellness staff. “We have seen that our patients take more advantage of nutrition and dietary support when it is in a community setting,” he said.
While many CU physicians may find it useful to refer patients to TLC for immunizations or health and wellness support, TLC also plays their part in ensuring patients see their primary care physician or specialist when necessary.
“TLC always refers patients back to their physician for ongoing care,” said Dr. Bacak. “They also refer patients who do not have a primary care physician, or who have complicated care needs.”
Dr. Bacak explained that the CU–TLC affiliation reflects the power of health professionals working together to expand access to quality care.
“We’re not in competition with TLC to grab a small piece of the health care pie,” said Dr. Bacak. “We entered into a partnership because we believe in access to quality care. Health and wellness is important to everyone. The more we can provide access to effective, coordinated primary care, the better off we all are.”
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