By  //  February 11, 2013

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BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – A new chapter in Brevard healthcare history begins this month, as Health First’s acquisition of Melbourne Internal Medicine Associates, or MIMA, is finalized and the Health First Medical Group becomes reality, more than doubling the number of Health First physicians from 120 to 250.

The transaction is on schedule for a mid-February operational start date.

HEALTH FIRST MEDICAL GROUP DOCTORS Dr. Andrew Zabinski, left, and and Dr. John Bomalaski.

In addition to the new providers, approximately 700 support personnel from MIMA will be part of the new collaboration.

With the MIMA acquisition, Health First – already the largest health care system in Brevard – will employ more than 7,500 individuals in the county, second only to the Brevard County School Board. MIMA’s physicians encompass 26 specialties that range from dermatology and radiology to cancer, geriatrics and sports medicine.

In the agreement, Health First will acquire all of MIMA’s assets, including equipment and facilities such as MIMA’s 200,000-square-foot Gateway Blvd. headquarters in Melbourne, as well as offices in Indialantic, Palm Bay and Viera. The physicians and support personnel will enter into employment agreements with Health First.

MIMA-Health First Alliance Boon To New Collaborative Care Models

The transaction is a win-win-win for patients, physicians and Health First, particularly with the fast approaching changes in the healthcare industry, changes that emphasize population health management and preventive services in contrast to traditional fee-for-service medicine.

HEALTH FIRST WILL ACQUIRE all of MIMA’s assets, including equipment and facilities such as MIMA’s 200,000-square-foot Gateway Blvd. headquarters in Melbourne, as well as offices in Indialantic, Palm Bay and Viera.

When Steve Johnson began his tenure as Health First president and CEO last year, he knew navigating his health care system’s ship around the many obstacles of new healthcare laws would require keen cooperation. Bringing MIMA doctors on board will make the voyage easier, as similar collaborations are doing for many other systems nationwide.

“As we move to a new value-based model, our focus will emphasize care quality, better outcomes and fewer readmissions,” said Health First chief executive officer Steve Johnson.


“Health First has been moving toward a preventive health model for some time. We believe this is the right thing to do. And healthcare reform will be reimbursing based on hospitals’ efforts to keep people well and out of the hospital. Our combined Health First Medical Group will be working toward the same goal, certainly to treat patients’ medical needs, but also to encourage and educate them about how to get and stay well.”

Johnson points to the better coordination of care made possible when physicians are all on the same page.

“With physicians working together as one organization, they can coordinate patient care more easily through a shared medical record, the leveraging of equipment and the elimination of duplicate services, such as diagnostic tests, and can access talent and expertise within a cohesive group structure,” he added.

Hospital Systems And Physicians Aligning Across The Country

Acquisition of physician groups by hospital systems is the current national trend, according to the Medical Group Management Association, the Denver-based network of 22,500 medical group administrators across the country.

ALLIED HEALTH PROFESSIONALS, like Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners Alice Spinelli (far left), and Patty Lebron (far right), pictured here with Drs. Zabinski and Bomalaski, are an integral and important element of the comprehensive, patient-centered care provided by the Health First Medical Group. (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

In Orlando, for example, Orlando Health has moved in that direction. In Brevard, the MIMA acquisition follows the 2012 purchase of the 47-physician Osler Medical by Wuesthoff Health Systems.

“Healthcare costs continue to rise and reimbursements continue to decrease, making hospital and physician partnerships within integrated delivery networks among the best way to reduce expenditures while improving the quality of care,” explained Health First chief financial officer Joe Felkner, who was actively involved in the acquisition negotiations and agreement with MIMA.


The Health First Medical Group exemplifies the pooling resources for the common good.

“Health First is an integrated delivery system,” added Johnson.

“This includes an employed physician component. MIMA is a well-respected physician group, and has been a long-time partner with Health First in delivering exceptional medical care, but under separate organizations. By combining the expertise of our two physician groups, we can offer patients a full range of physician specialties, from primary care and internal medicine doctors, to sub-specialists who can provide care for more specific medical conditions.”

IN ADDITION TO THE NEWLY FORMED HEALTH FIRST MEDICAL GROUP, Health First also provides a full ensemble of healthcare services including health insurance plans, hospitals, outpatients services, health clubs and more.

More Patient-Centered Approach To Healthcare, Seamless Delivery Of Services

For the most part, patients should see little outward change in their healthcare routine, since their providers and processes should remain the same. The benefits they will experience lie in the seamless delivery of services that will better coordinate patient care to keep patients healthier longer.


“This acquisition will enable Health First to provide more effective preventive care and chronic disease management and reduce costly hospital readmissions,” said Health First chief strategy & growth officer, Drew Rector.

“There will be many benefits to our patients with the creation of this new Health First Medical Group. Physicians will be aligned along the same future goals and guiding principles. We will be able to achieve better outcomes for our patients through the use of best practices. Patients will only receive the needed diagnostic, lab or other services once, eliminating the need to duplicate these services, saving time and money.

By combining the resources of both our systems, Health First Medical Group physicians will be able to provide the latest in technology and equipment. By reducing redundancy and waste, we can contain costs for our customers. Patients can benefit from the wide range of expertise found within the Health First Medical Group. This care coordination will enhance our ability to deliver better value to those we serve.”

Collaborative Alliance Is A Win For All

At the helm of the new Health First Medical Group is its president, Dr. Jim Ronaldson, who was the chief executive officer at MIMA prior to the acquisition. Like Felkner, Ronaldson expects the transition from MIMA to Health First Medical Group to be equally as smooth for patients


“Patients will still be able to see their same physicians and for the most part, in the same location,” said Ronaldson.

“Patients will also have greater options to other specialists within the group. Instead of being with MIMA, their physician will now be part of the Health First Medical Group. Most of the change will come in the back-office operations of the day-to-day running of a physician group.”

According to Ronaldson, MIMA physicians favored their group’s purchase by Health First in significant part because of previous connections between the two entities.

“Patients will also have greater options to other specialists within the group. Instead of being with MIMA, their physician will now be part of the Health First Medical Group. Most of the change will come in the back-office operations of the day-to-day running of a physician group.”

“We have a longstanding and positive relationship with Health First,” said Ronaldson.

“Most of our physicians have privileges at Health First hospitals and have worked with many Health First Associates for many years. Many of our physicians have been actively involved in Health First leadership, including board positions and medical directorships for various Health First entities. Health First leadership went to great efforts to answer all questions from our physicians, from the beginning to the final agreement.”

Integrated Delivery System

Merritt Island dermatologist Dr. Larry Bishop, who first joined MIMA in 1996, knows both MIMA and Health First inside out. He supports the acquisition as a winning strategy to remain responsive to patients while facing the future of medicine, which Bishop – like most physicians – believes will focus on integration of services, from preventative to hospital admissions.


MIMA physicians like Bishop will reap many benefits from this new arrangement, says Ronaldson.

“They can focus all their efforts on treating patients and providing the best medical care,” he said. “They will be part of an established, integrated delivery system, providing them access to physicians who deliver the entire continuum of care. They will have more operations support, more financial stability for their futures and access to more resources such as high-end technology and equipment.”

Ronaldson himself has close ties with Health First. The interventional cardiologist has served on the medical staff at Health First Holmes Regional Medical Center since 1989. He was on the advisory board of the hospital’s Heart Center from 1992 to 1999. This is the perfect time for MIMA and Health First to join forces, he insists.

“By combining our resources within one organization, patients will have access to a stronger, more unified network,” he said.