Revival of the Fittest

In October, Boone Health Medical Group opened a new clinic in Mexico, Mo. But although new to Boone, the Medical Park clinic has deep roots in Audrain County, with a long history of providing care to patients.

Boone Health Medical Park – Mexico was originally founded in 1996 as a multispecialty group with a pulmonologist, hematology oncologist, and an internist. In 2001, Mexico native Michael Quinlan, MD, an internal medicine specialist, returned to his hometown and joined the group.

Things changed in 2007 when Audrain Medical Center acquired the practice. It sought status as a Rural Health Clinic, which meant it could only offer primary care services rather than specialty care. Quinlan remained, later joined by Peggy Barjenbruch, MD, another internist who had been taking care of patients in Mexico for more than 20 years. In 2013, SSM Health Care acquired Audrain Medical Center, including the primary care clinic. In 2021, Noble Health became the new owner. One year later, Noble was acquired by Platinum Health Systems. In 2022, Audrain Medical Center and Callaway Medical Center, which had both been owned by Noble, became the ninth and tenth rural hospitals in Missouri to shutter in less than a decade.

Throughout 25 years of changes in ownership, Practice Manager Diane Hagedorn responded to changes, by adjusting electronic medical systems, dealing with new insurance company contracts, and swapping out office letterhead.

“It was a blessing for us for Boone Health to be an option,” Diane says. “We were faced with either the providers starting private practice again, which is just not really tenable, or they had to look at someone else to partner with as an employer.”

“Boone was a really good choice for us. We already had a major referral relationship with them, so it’s not like Boone was new to us. And I have been pleasantly surprised to learn in all the training we have gone through with them how very much alike we are. Like it was when owned by Audrain County Medical Center, it’s more that local feel. Culturally, they are so much like us, so it’s been a really easy transition,” Diane says.

In the past, the practice suffered from supply shortages and a lack of stability. Having Boone Health step in to fill the void was a lifeline for the clinic and their patients.

“That smooth transition means our patients haven’t noticed much difference because the staff here stayed,” Diane says. “To them, there’s just a new name on the building.”

The major transition right now is the time it takes to renegotiate insurance contracts, which are driven by the clinic owner rather than the providers. That means a patient may be seeing the doctor they’ve been seeing for years, but if the clinic owner changes, those contracts must be renegotiated.

“Patients connect with the provider, not with the owner,” Diane says. “Within a month or two, we should finalize status with nearly all of our patient insurers as a network provider.”

Boone Health already had an established clinic in Mexico. Boone Health Primary Care – Mexico is a family practice clinic that serves newborns through the elderly and delivers basic health services. The Mexico Park Clinic fills another need. Its providers see a slightly older group of patients, as young as 14 years old, with a focus on wellness, management, and treatment of more complex and chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, lung disease, and obesity.

In addition to Drs. Quinlan and Barjenbruch, patients receive care from Ashlee Dougherty, PA, and Andrea Feger, FNP. In addition to Diane, the Mexico Park Clinic currently employs three front-office staff, two licensed practical nurses, two medical assistants, and a lab tech. And the clinic is busy.

“With a lot of primary care providers leaving the area recently, there are many patients looking for new providers,” says Diane. “We’re still working through the challenge of reducing the backlog of our patients and working in the new patients who need our care.”

The lack of a local hospital creates assess concerns for patients in the Mexico area. Through Boone Health Medical Group clinics, expanded services such as onsite laboratory services, and the building of new relationships in the area, Boone Health continues to work to keep care close to home for patients.

By Michelle Terhune