Why Aledade: Q&A with Sohail Khwaja, Columbia, Md.

April 10, 2024

Sohail Khwaja serves as the Executive Director of Columbia Medical Practice, a large primary care practice based in Howard County, Md., featuring 20 physicians and support staff, all committed to the delivery of comprehensive care in a single location. With a focus on the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) approach, the practice initially began its value-based care journey as a member of a hospital-led Accountable Care Organization (ACO), but switched to Aledade’s physician-led ACO in 2022.

What motivated you to practice value-based care?

The population health concept – the more we can do to make sure that the whole person is healthy – is better for us as a society. Our prime directive is caring for our patients’ well-being. And I believe if we do the right things for the patients and do them the right way, everything else will fall into place.

How has participating in an Aledade ACO enabled you to better serve your patients?

We are committed to value-based care because it allows us the resources and the support to do what is necessary to make sure patients are taken care of. There are no care gaps. Our care coordinators, our nurses who do the wellness visits, and the outside agency we work with to provide in-home visits – all of that is because of the value-based care model. 

Value-based care gives us the resources to make sure that the patient is getting taken care of. These value-based care models allow us to put people in place that can work with these patients [when they come out of the hospital]: make sure they have what they need, make sure they understand, make sure they have the connections. Then, the longitudinal care can be done by the primary care practice.

What differences have you experienced in participating in a physician-led ACO with Aledade?

We have been focused on the PCMH concept for a very long time and took the opportunity to be part of a health system ACO, but learned we needed more support that recognized our priorities in independent care. We were a small fish in a big pond, and the health system’s priorities are always different from ours. 

We joined Aledade in 2022, and the support we received in the first three months was exponentially greater than what we had ever seen before – just in the matter of what we need to do, to do better by our patients. So, that’s what gets us committed to value-based care. We’re getting the support. We’re getting the funding. We are getting the resources we need to take care of our patients.

How has being in an ACO benefitted your team culture?

The average tenure right now for our staff is more than 10 years. Longevity to us is very important. Our goal is to try to provide an environment for people where there is stability.

I believe the reason people have shied away from primary care is because of the burden of documentation. Everything that is required of primary care is very time-consuming, and value-based care is changing that. 

At our practice, we have a set expectation of how many patients that our providers should see on a daily basis. But, we have a team concept. We ask our providers to allow the Medical Assistants (MAs) to do a lot of the prep work. The idea is, the physician needs to focus on the patient, and the MAs do the work that surrounds the visit. 

This structure then makes the primary care physician’s life easier. The model we are operating under, I think, is something that should attract people back to primary care.The focus is, again, on seeing a limited number of patients, but taking better care of them, as opposed to continuing to see more and more patients.

What does the future look like for Columbia Medical Practice?

I have a very simple mission for us: We want to be the best choice for primary care in Howard County, Maryland. We are the largest; I want us to be the best. When people think about primary care, I want them to think about us first. And all of that can be achieved by providing the kind of environment where people feel respected and cared for.

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