The Hattiesburg Clinic is Mississippi’s largest private multi-specialty medical group.
The Hattiesburg Clinic is Mississippi’s largest private multi-specialty medical group.
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Hattiesburg Clinic, UMMC announce collaboration to boost quality care

Published on Thursday, January 31, 2019

By: (UMMC) Ruth Cummins and (HC) Jonah Taylor, jonah.taylor@hattiesburgclinic.com

The Hattiesburg Clinic, Mississippi’s largest private multi-specialty medical group, and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the state’s only academic medical center, are embarking on a collaborative effort to ensure that patients receive the highest quality of care through innovative use of electronic health records.

The initiative calls for the physician-owned and managed Hattiesburg Clinic to share with the Medical Center its expertise in the use of the Epic electronic health record and its centralized approach to wellness and disease management, all essential components of building more efficient and higher quality systems of care.  UMMC also uses Epic as its vendor for electronic health records.

“UMMC and Hattiesburg Clinic share the greater vision of improving health care for all Mississippians,” said Dr. Charles O’Mara, UMMC professor of surgery and associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs.  “That’s what this is all about.”


“We are partnering to develop an infrastructure to deliver the highest quality care at the lowest cost to all Mississippians,” said Dr. John M. Fitzpatrick, a board-certified nephrologist and president of the Hattiesburg Clinic Board of Directors.

“The strategies focus on wellness and prevention, better management of chronic diseases using case manager registered nurses, and a variety of registries to identify care gaps in the various populations,” he said.

One of Epic’s most progressive and innovative features is its “Healthy Planet” module. Healthy Planet collects and aggregates patient data. It gives doctors, nurses, social workers and other health care providers the electronic tools to better coordinate delivery of patient care and to take a much wider view of a patient’s medical history, current issues and ongoing needs. It allows providers to monitor quality and cost, to track how well they’re doing on each, and to prioritize their patient-centered care.

As part of a service agreement between the two organizations, Hattiesburg Clinic staff will train a group of UMMC information technology employees and direct patient care providers in the use of Healthy Planet.  Also, advice and assistance will be given in developing at the Medical Center a care management structure patterned after the one already implemented at the Clinic.

Not only is Hattiesburg Clinic a pioneer in optimizing the use of Epic and Healthy Planet, it’s been recognized by Epic for its creativity, including working with Epic to develop the EHR giant’s version of Healthy Planet. Hattiesburg Clinic built a clinical operating model to enhance management of the clinic’s patient population of about 500,000 residents across 19 south Mississippi counties.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson is the state's only academic medical center.

The goal of Healthy Planet is to ensure patients, especially those with chronic diseases, are as healthy as possible and getting proactive care. The Healthy Planet module is a population health tool, meaning it tracks and even predicts factors such as comorbidities for patients with chronic illnesses, and their risk for illness from other societal factors – for example, poverty or physical living environment – that can contribute to bad health.

Epic has recognized Hattiesburg Clinic with its Gold Star 9 rating, the highest current level of any of its customers.


“Hattiesburg Clinic had a significant role in developing and refining Healthy Planet,” O’Mara said. “They’ve also demonstrated a high level of quality in clinical services through their care management approach and their outreach to patients.”

At UMMC, providers will use Healthy Planet to enhance care for entire populations of patients – for example, all diabetes patients seen by the office of Dr. Shannon Pittman, professor and Alma Lowry Hill Chair of Family Medicine.

“Traditionally, we take care of one patient at a time. But these tools give us the ability to pull up all of our diabetic patients and identify with quality metrics what each patient might be missing,” she said. “Have they had an eye exam? Have they been screened for certain diseases? We can take action, based on that data, with just a few clicks.”

Not only chronic diseases, but wellness and preventive care can be managed through Healthy Planet. “With two or three clicks, we can generate a communication to that patient,” Pittman said. “We can see who hasn’t had their flu shot, or needs to be screened for depression.


“The beauty of the Healthy Planet tools is that they bring a lot of information into a seamless platform to use to make sure patients have better outcomes, and further optimize the entire health care team so that everyone is working together and using the tools to promote healthy outcomes,” she said.

The collaborative effort will be especially important in serving Mississippi’s most vulnerable residents, including Medicare and Medicaid patients, UMMC and Hattiesburg Clinic leaders say. As noted by the national Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, or HIMSS, “Hattiesburg Clinic has the best build of Epic in the country to deliver population health,” Fitzpatrick said.

The Clinic in 2017 made perfect scores on quality measures impacting about 20,000 Medicare patients and lowered its total cost of care by $3.9 million, Fitzpatrick said. “A key driver of this agreement is to develop programs that use similar approaches for Medicaid patients,” he said.

Hattiesburg Clinic’s approach to medical care “is very similar to ours,” O’Mara said. “We view this as an opportunity for the state’s only academic medical center to take part in a collaborative effort with a forward-thinking private practice group.

“It will have benefits for both organizations, and it’s in the best interest of health care for all Mississippians, which is the primary driver.”