Bruce Perry, M.D., the newly named chairman of the Permanente Federation Executive Committee of the Permanente Medical Group, says he sees clinical and financial healthcare information technology as his biggest upcoming challenge.
Perry replaces Ron Copeland, M.D., executive medical director for Ohio Permanente Medical Group, as chairman and will serve a two-year term. Copeland will remain on the five-member executive committee. The Permanente Federation develops policy and provides governance and oversight for the eight regional, independent Permanente medical groups.
Perry was recently picked for the chairmanship by fellow members of the executive committee, whose members are drawn from the eight regional Permanente medical directors.
As chairman, Perry will help set the agenda for the executive committee and other national governing groups of the giant, not-for-profit Kaiser Permanente healthcare organization of 11,000 physicians who, together with a partnering health plan and chain of hospitals, serve 8.4 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia.
A year ago this month, Kaiser scrapped a 10-year effort to develop a home-grown electronic medical records system and hired Epic Systems of Madison, Wis., to lead it on an $1.8 billion IT improvement campaign.
"The major issue is how do we implement Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect, which is both our medical records and other systems beyond clinical documentation," Perry said.
The second major challenge will be maintaining the beneficial relationships between the medical groups, which he represents, and the national Kaiser Foundation Health Plan with which the groups partner. Finding common ground will be the goal, said Perry.
"Most of the time with the challenges, there is a commonality of threats and a commonality of good outcomes," Perry says.
Perry, medical director of Atlanta-based Permanente Medical Group of Georgia, which serves 270,000 plan members, said that despite the strain on the healthcare system today, he remains "a great believer in the large, multidisciplinary group."
"Everyone in healthcare is facing real challenges now, but I have to believe when physicians get together in multispecialty groups, they take charge and provide leadership."
In addition to Perry and Copeland, the executive committee includes Francis Crosson, M.D., executive director of the Permanente Federation; Robert Pearl, M.D., executive medical director and chief executive officer of the Permanente Medical Group (Northern California); and Jeffrey Weisz, M.D., medical director of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group.