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“Seeing my husband in PPE from head to toe brings tears to my eyes.”

By Charlene Macielag | December 10, 2020 | 2 min read | Community Health, Coronavirus

Chris sits on a city bench and smiles, an empty main street behind her

In 2009, Chris and her husband took a leap of faith: they opened their own primary care practice, Port City Urgent Care and Family Practice, in Wilmington, NC. Gary was the physician of the family, and while he saw patients, Chris took on the role as receptionist, homeschool teacher and everything in between.

Everything took a turn in the beginning of 2019. Gary not only underwent triple bypass surgery, but he was also diagnosed with cancer. From then until now, it has been a whirlwind for Chris and her family. Gary completed 40 weeks of radiation treatment for cancer, and on top of it all, COVID-19 struck the United States – placing tremendous pressure on the health care system and their practice. Despite being high risk, Gary has continued to see patients during the pandemic.

Staying afloat during the pandemic has been difficult for many small independent practices, but an accountable care organization (ACO) offered through a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina collaboration has helped many practices, including Chris and Gary’s, continue to see and treat patients.

While the cost savings of being part of an ACO has been a gamechanger, Chris and Gary’s main focus has been the patients.

“It’s not about the money,” she said, “it’s about what the ACO helps us do. The ACO streamlines patient information.”

Being part of the ACO has also helped Chris and Gary focus on keeping their staff safe during the pandemic. All are aware of Gary’s story and are committed to doing their part to keep each other and their patients safe.

“At our office, we have always tried to do our best. We fall short–we’re people. But we always strive for excellence. We’re doing the best we can do,” she said. “I think we’re doing a good job. We love our patients.”

Independent primary care practices serve a large role in the long-term sustainability of our health care system. We’re proud to be able to help practice owners breathe a little easier and focus on looking out for each other during this unprecedented time.

Port City Urgent Care and Family Practice joined Blue Cross NC’s Accelerate to Value program this past July. Blue Cross NC created the Accelerate to Value program to stabilize and improve the financial condition of participating independent primary care practices during COVID-19, and to encourage these practices to move to value-based care.