ALBANY — Albany Internal Medicine has been successful in helping Medicare beneficiaries in its patient base receive affordable health care, officials with the medical practice and Privia Health said.

Albany Internal Medicine, or AIM, is considered a leading participant in an accountable care organization, or ACO, called Privia Quality Network-Georgia. This ACO received national recognition from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services for providing care at lower costs for Medicare beneficiaries.

AIM partnered with Privia in December 2015. Privia said AIM’s work with Medicare patients in Albany contributed to the company saving CMS $10 million as part of the 2017 Medicare Shared Savings Program.

Privia achieved the highest savings rate of any ACO based exclusively in Georgia.

“Our group was a significant component (of the $10 million savings),” AIM President Dr. Joe Stubbs said. “It takes a lot of work to achieve (those savings).”

Stubbs said building a quality staff, which includes 10 physicians, has contributed to the savings by giving focus to what takes place outside of the physician’s office. This means calling patients at home and checking in with them after a hospital discharge — ensuring they get into the practice when they need to be there.

“We treat chronic conditions and try to keep them healthy outside the office as well,” he said.

Officials with Privia said its success was possible because of efforts across the group to reduce the administrative burdens placed on physicians and medical staff so they could focus more on delivering great care to their patients.

“Tremendous work is being done by the providers at Albany Internal Medicine to give patients in Albany the care they need, when they need it, and in a way that doesn’t break the bank,” Privia Medical Group-Georgia CEO Dr. Jim Sams said in a statement. “This national recognition from CMS is a tribute to the work being done by Albany Internal Medicine and the other practices in the Privia ACO to help patients manage their health and reduce waste in the health care system.”

Stubbs said AIM is involved with other ACOs with other payors, but Privia is the largest ACO that AIM is involved with. Going forward, the practice has the goal of helping more physicians to get engaged with such organizations.

“We try to support independent physicians in the community,” he said. “(We plan to build on current efforts) by continuing to try to expand the Privia network.

“We are one of the largest independent practices in the area for primary care.”

CMS also reported that Privia’s Medicare patients had the lowest rate of emergency room visits and admissions per thousand in Georgia. Privia officials said this is a significant success because it demonstrates how Privia physicians manage an effective care plan for their patients, allowing them to avoid visits to the ER that are often much more expensive.

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I'm a 2007 graduate of Georgia Southern University, and I've been a reporter for The Albany Herald since 2008. I cover news related to health care, Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, SOWEGA Council on Aging and other areas as assigned.