American Rheumatology Network, Building Something Better in Rheumatology

by Colin Edgerton, MD

Articularis Rheumatology Network is announcing a name change to American Rheumatology Network (ARN). This is a coming of age moment for a network that has grown quickly to over 200 private practice rheumatologists across the country in only 8 months. American Rheumatology Network is a physician owned and led collaborative group of community rheumatologists who have come together to find purchasing power through a specialty specific group purchasing organization (GPO), to participate in value-based pathways and payer contracting support, and to share data analytics. ARN is unique in that there are no fees to participate, and no onerous requirements to access benefits. The ownership, leadership, and services of ARN are not changing.

Why a Name Change?
American Rheumatology Network is uniquely practice focused. ARN’s origin is tied to community rheumatology practices and every ARN service offering is developed and tested “in the trenches” of community practice. The original name, Articularis Rheumatology Network, was chosen to represent lessons learned from the largest rheumatology practice in the country, Articularis Healthcare Group. However, as the network quickly grew to a collaboration between the country’s largest rheumatology practices, each of whom were unable to find meaningful value from existing rheumatology management services organizations, the need to expand the name became apparent. By focusing on what community rheumatologists need and delivering on these needs, ARN has enjoyed explosive growth based on real value.

Real World Initiatives
ARN’s GPO has quickly distinguished itself as the leader in rheumatology-specific purchasing. The GPO has the largest number of “differentiated contracts” offering network members best in class savings on purchases that cannot be matched by other GPOs. The ARN GPO is an independent, physician owned and led entity. This ownership and leadership ensure that the GPO will always serve rheumatologists first, while leveraging the excellence of a nationally recognized distribution network. Participation in the GPO provides inventory and revenue management solutions tailored to rheumatology practices. These no-cost, in-office automated solutions allow for tracking purchased inventory, efficient ordering to prevent excess inventory, and claims tracking. These tools are rheumatology-focused, tested and developed in a real-world setting, and are used by the most successful rheumatology practices in the country.

ARN has developed treatment pathways that are ready to use “out of the box” with integrated electronic health record (EHR) support. These pathways, in addition to ARN payor support services, allow rheumatologists to pursue value-based contracts with payers. The network provides a forum for practices to share experiences with value-based contracting and develop best practices. ARN’s independent rheumatology practices are also eligible for discounted services from numerous vendors to include the TSI Healthcare NextGen electronic medical record (EMR). Each practice selects services to meet its needs, without mandates or requirements.

A Different Culture
ARN is physician owned and led with a strong focus on inclusion of rheumatology health professionals. ARN emphasizes the expertise and leadership of rheumatology practice managers, who often hold the keys to practice success. This dedication to management is reflected in ARN Summits which bring together practice managers and rheumatologists to share best practices in management and efficiencies. ARN’s leadership structure ensures that all efforts remain focused on community rheumatology practices, and not on corporate interests. This contrasts with other rheumatology management service organizations, where leadership has been assumed by insurance and pharmaceutical executives.

Working with Others
ARN understands the value of trusted and established partners in the rheumatology space. ARN recognizes the strengths of national organizations such as the American College of Rheumatology, the Coalition of State Rheumatology Organizations, and the National Organization of Rheumatology Managers, with many ARN members serving as volunteers. ARN believes that the rheumatology space is too small for divisions and cross purposes. ARN’s value-based services, such as pathways, are designed to adhere to accepted national evidence-based guidelines. This approach leverages the expertise of national organizations, combined with the consensus-based approach of ARN practicing rheumatologists, to produce scalable value-based solutions that are attractive to practices and payers across the country. As an example of this success, ARN offers the only EHR-integrated, national guideline compliant treatment pathway operating with a major payer in the country.

Helping Independent Rheumatologists Thrive
ARN adheres to the mission statement of, “Helping Community Rheumatology Practices Thrive.” This is done through collaboration and support for practices, while allowing practices to remain fully independent. Current practice independence is challenged by the generally small size of rheumatology practices and the environment of growing costs and administrative complexity. ARN services are designed to support practices in these challenging times allowing community rheumatology to thrive.

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