Eric Weaver's healthcare epiphany came in Cuba.
He's no Communist and says much of the Cuban system wouldn't work in the U.S. But on a 2014 research trip with other healthcare executives, Weaver, 39, saw how Cuban primary-care doctors and nurses are embedded in neighborhoods. And he noticed that they collaborated with other types of providers for community-based care, focusing heavily on prevention and avoiding costly specialty care.
That, Weaver thought, is what American healthcare is just now starting to do.
“That really got me thinking about population health,” he said. “I really see that being the future—higher patient engagement, coordinated team-based care, chronic disease management.”
It's also similar, he said, to what the Medicare accountable care organizations are designed to encourage. Through ACOs, providers from various disciplines band together to provide patients with coordinated care, then share in any cost savings.
While Weaver saw the potential of ACOs early on, his work as CEO of one of the new organizations, Austin, Texas-based Integrated ACO, drew attention to what they could achieve. Integrated cut expenditures by 4.5% its first year and by more than 8% in its second, bringing in more than $6 million in shared savings over two years, at a time when only about a quarter of ACOs were reaping any rewards from savings.
In recognition of his work, the American College of Healthcare Executives has awarded Weaver the Robert S. Hudgens Memorial Award for Young Healthcare Executive of the Year. The award is given to an exceptional healthcare executive under age 40 who is an ACHE fellow and a healthcare CEO or chief operating officer.
Integrated ACO is structured a little like Cuban neighborhood healthcare, where primary-care doctors or other caregivers accompany patients to specialists and work to coordinate care.
“We created this medical village, co-locating primary-care physicians with different specialty providers,” all working toward one goal, said Weaver, who left Integrated this past November.
Weaver also won praise earlier in his career when he managed a portfolio of cardiology practices for Austin-based St. David's HealthCare, part of hospital system HCA. In one year, the cardiology group went from worst to first in patient satisfaction out of HCA's 600-plus physician practices.
Weaver was hired late last year by Westchester, Ill.-based Innovista Health Solutions as president of its central Texas market, overseeing the performance of several physician-led ACOs.
Innovista CEO Rich Steinle said Weaver was an obvious choice to lead the ACOs, noting Integrated's success.
“It's hard to find folks with proven success in these kinds of arrangements,” Steinle said. “The first thing we saw in Eric was an executive who pioneered one of these early value-based arrangements, and had returned a lot of shared savings to his physicians. He's innovative and forward-thinking. And his passion lies with population health and with the providers.”
Weaver is also heavily involved in the community, and part of a group called the Fifty that's dedicated to raising $50 million for Ascension Health's Seton Healthcare Family subsystem to open a teaching hospital and a new medical school at the University of Texas in Austin.
Weaver earned his master's degree in healthcare administration and a bachelor's degree in clinical laboratory science, both from Texas State University in San Marcos. He's currently a doctoral candidate in healthcare administration and leadership at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
David Royse is a freelance writer based in Chicago.