California is a land of innovation, technology and discovery, and our state is home to cutting-edge ideas that improve our quality of life and transform how we do business.

However, our health care delivery system is a dated model. Patients, particularly those living away from major cities, face issues getting access to physicians, language barriers and disconnected digital communications between their physicians.

With limited resources and growing administrative responsibilities, physicians are asking: How do we continue to innovate and reinvent our business model to better serve patients? 

A new collaboration by Blue Shield of California and the California Medical Association (CMA) has been designed to help answer that question.

Blue Shield has committed $30 million to work with CMA to invest in pilot projects in Monterey and Butte counties to help bring health care into the digital age. The goal is to create a patient-centered experience through home- and community-based services to meet people where they are and address all their health needs. It will utilize new technology to help physicians reduce their administrative burden (time and costs).

Blue Shield serves all 58 California counties with its benefit plans. The CMA represents 43,000 physicians statewide. Both see the need to help physicians help patients and deliver enhanced quality care that’s sustainably affordable.

A 2016 study by the Annals of Internal Medicine found for every hour physicians provide care to patients, nearly two additional hours are spent on electronic health records and desk work. This is just as frustrating for doctors as it is for patients who deserve to be given quality face time during their office visits.

In addition, rural communities like ours have less health care providers to meet patient demand and significant challenges in attracting physicians to practice. California Health Care Foundation estimates there is an average of about 43 primary care physicians per 100,000 people in Butte and Monterey Counties, significantly less than urban and metropolitan areas where the ratio reaches as many as 60 physicians per 100,000 people.  

Blue Shield and CMA are supporting this innovative collaboration, which is the latest in a series of investments made by Blue Shield to transform our current system into the health care system of the future – one that delivers quality and affordable care to all Californians. Having health plan assistance with infrastructure can help attract talent to these rural communities as well as enhance the practice of existing physician practices, which will greatly expand patient access to quality health care.

We need more creative thinking and innovative ideas to change how we provide health care to all Californians. Blue Shield and CMA have stepped up to the challenge, and we are thrilled to be a part of their innovative pilot program because it will not only benefit all Californians, but also bring to rural communities a health care model of the future.

– Dr. Maximiliano Cuevas, Monterey County Medical Society President, and Dr. Richard Thorp, CEO of Paradise Medical Group and former CMA President

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OPINION: Butte and Monterey counties to pilot health innovation

Blue Shield has committed $30 million to work with CMA to invest in pilot projects in Monterey and Butte counties to help bring health care into the digital age.


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