Bend Memorial Clinic is being renamed Summit Medical Group Oregon-Bend Memorial Clinic, as part of a new partnership between the region’s largest multispecialty physician clinic and a management group based in New Jersey.

BMC leadership began exploring the possibility of a partnership in 2016, in the midst of financial challenges exacerbated by a costly new electronic medical records system.

The clinic attracted more than 30 offers, mostly from hospital systems or private equity groups.

“On the list were the typical hospital systems, private equity groups, and then there was this weird group from New Jersey,” said Dr. David Holloway, chief physician executive at the clinic. “As the board started chipping through and narrowing it down, it became more clear that the values and vision aligned.”

Summit Health Management in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, grew out of the Summit Medical Group, a multispecialty physician group that started out much like BMC but has now evolved into a larger organization. Over the past six years, the group grew from 125 providers to more than 800, with more than 1.2 million patient visits per year. While the Bend clinic is not expected to realize that level of growth, both groups saw tremendous similarities between the two clinics.

“We sat down in a management presentation as a group and it was like looking in the mirror,” said Dr. Russell Massine, BMC chief governance officer. “So the cultural transition that would be necessary with any partnership seemed effortless.”

The New Jersey clinic provides a model for BMC going forward, as the population of Central Oregon continues to surge and the demand for health services rises.

Summit Health’s model relies heavily on value-based care, a health care delivery model in which physicians are paid based on patient health outcomes rather than the number of patients they see or services they provide. Dr. Jeffrey LeBenger, chairman and CEO of Summit Health Management, said some 65 to 70 percent of Summit Health’s revenues come from value-based contracts, and the health care system nationally is moving more toward those types of arrangements. Summit-BMC wants to include more value-based approaches in its insurance contracts going forward.

Summit-BMC envisions an immediate expansion of capacity with plans to hire new family medicine, internal medicine, dermatology and obstetrics-gynecology specialists. The clinic had stopped hiring new physicians in recent years due to its financial difficulties.

“(Patients) should notice some pretty immediate improvements in access over the first, second and third quarter,” Holloway said.

Summit Health officials also believe they can help BMC doctors become more efficient and more productive, increasing the number of patients they can see each day. Summit has more experience with the health records system that BMC recently implemented, and may be able to cut the time doctors spend at their computers, offering more time with patients. The clinic may free up more time by hiring nurses to handle prescription renewal requests currently handled by the doctors, and use telephone or video consultations to cover specialties in short supply.

Holloway also expected that Summit Health would help the clinic leverage the data from health records to improve care for patients with certain conditions, keeping them healthier and avoiding the costs of urgent care or hospital stays.

Karen Graham, chief of operations for Summit Health Management, said the new partnership will now decide what functions will continue to be handled locally, and what might benefit from economies of scale. Along with the BMC partnership, Summit Health is partnering with Phoenix-based Arizona Primary Care Providers to form Summit Medical Group Arizona. The three clinics will look to combine purchasing, getting better prices on bulk orders for supplies.

She said no jobs are being eliminated under the partnership, and BMC employees can look forward to their first Summit Health paycheck on Friday.

As part of the transaction, Summit Health Management has purchased BMC’s assets, and will take a number of seats on its board of directors. But the practice remains physician-owned, and BMC physicians retain a majority on the board.

— Reporter: 541-633-2162,