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Leaders investing in leaders: Physician Organizations in Michigan evolve through active partnership

April 28th, 2017

I’m regularly invited to attend or present at leadership meetings, leadership development conferences, leadership retreats and leadership pep rallies. (Okay, I’m kidding about the last one, but you get the idea.)

In an industry full of new approaches, leadership remains a popular mantra. But looking at it in the context of physician organizations, I believe there has been a true evolution within our niche area that has ultimately allowed Michigan to claim a leadership position in identifying, clarifying and seeking to accomplish major population health goals, among others.

Initially serving mainly as contracting agencies for health care entities, some POs were forced to change focus in the 90’s as insurers began taking claims processing activities in-house. Today, it’s as if we’ve come full circle, again playing a contracting role, yet developing into boots-on- the-ground leaders for communicating and implementing  broad-based concepts such as the Patient-Centered Medical Home model (increasingly known as advanced primary care) via the physician’s practice. It’s a case of leaders investing in leaders, and the back story is telling.

Whatever the level of operation, leaders set the pace, establish the vision and rally the troops. In Michigan, the solid foundation of today’s PO network today was formed in large part thanks to the able leadership of key physicians at BCBSM (and, later, a handful of other Michigan-based insurers) who realized the most impactful way to introduce and guide transformational, outcomes-driven change was best done through physician organizations.

BCBSM’s decision to establish a value partnership approach (originally known as the Physician Group Incentive Program – PGIP) was the first step in solidifying the relationship.  Good leadership includes forecasting. BCBSM looked to the future of health care even before health reform served as an impetus to do so and realized that the changes they needed to implement required the support of physicians and administrators outside of their organization – yet within their sphere of influence – to achieve their goals. Brilliant idea! Easy to execute? Hardly.  Admittedly, some POs are more eager than others to embrace the opportunities presented through value partnerships; that being said, the new level of collaboration is unprecedented.

At one of the many meetings I recently attended, a speaker noted that without a specific federal grant, Michigan would not be leaders in the PCMH model. Untrue! Grants and financial assistance don’t make leaders. If that were the case, then throwing money at a variety of situations in and out healthcare would yield results.  Funding certainly can help plant the seeds, but it takes leadership for complex initiatives to take root and blossom. It takes leaders investing in leaders.

To the leaders in the profession I meet and interact with every day, I thank you.

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