How will your time as president of Sentara Health Plans inform your position as CEO of the health system?
I have 27-plus years of experience in healthcare. And I’ve worked on the provider as well as the payer side of the house. I like to think that I bring enough of a balanced perspective. One opportunity for me in this role is to continually improve the member and patient experience and to become more consumer-focused as an organization. I’m blessed that I’ve inherited an incredibly strong team here at Sentara. It speaks to the success that Sentara has had over the years in terms of our quality outcomes and our performance.
My wife was an ICU nurse for 20-plus years, so I have both a passionate and fond [sense] of what it is to be a nurse in a high-acuity setting. It makes me appreciate our team members in our 12 facilities and the work they do day in and day out.
One of the things I’ve done in previous roles is try to engage leadership deeper in the organization and push decision-making down. That’s going to be incredibly important for our continued journey as a consumer-driven organization. I and my team, quite frankly, don’t interact day-to-day with our members, with our patients, as often as our leaders in the field do. Pushing that decision-making down and putting it in the hands of people who are closer to our customers is a key element to how you start to really move an organization to become more consumer-focused.
Health system executives say that having an integrated health plan affords them unique opportunities, one of which is on the risk-based contracting side. Could you explain what opportunities being an integrated health system provides?
Having both a payer and provider under a single roof allows for trust to be built and creates more of a common dialogue between the two sides of the organization. That’s incredibly important to be able to advance payment for value as you engage with your patients as well as with other payers and ultimately employers. We have the Sentara Quality Care Network, a broad group of employed and community physicians. If you go back seven years ago, there were no other payers that were willing to contract with SQCN on a value-based perspective. Having a financing arm in Optima Health, we were able to do that. Secondly, engaging the city of Virginia Beach, the city of Norfolk and bringing doctors and employers to the table to discuss how we move the needle on both quality and affordability through SQCN was incredibly valuable. Employers stepped up and helped support the gestation of SQCN. Patients who go through SQCN with these employers typically ranked somewhere between the 75th and 90th percentile on Healthcare Efectiveness Data and Information Set measures. Tweaking benefit design to engage patients and members in a different way so that they would engage with SQCN physicians more frequently and in a trusting manner helped drive those outcomes.