Amber: Hi, I’m Amber Ambrose here at the Alpha Conference in Napa, California. My guest is Dr. Halee Fischer-Wright. Welcome to the show.
Halee: Thank you, very much, and please call me Halee.
Amber: I will be happy to. So, Halee, you’ve got so many things going on that I didn’t even give your exact title. Can you give us some background?
Halee: Sure, I’m President and CEO of MGMA, which stands for Medical Group Management Association. We’re one of the largest healthcare associations and one of the older ones, 90 years old, in the United States.
Amber: Oh wow. And you’re also an author, and from what I heard in there, a co-author of several books.
Halee: Yes, I’m co-author of the book Tribal Leadership, which was put out in 2008, but I’m the author of Back to Balance: The Art, Science and Business of Medicine, which is recently a best seller.
Amber: That is definitely what I want to talk about is the balance here with the triumvirate that you talked about. Can you give me an overview?
Halee: Sure. So, when I talk about the art, science and business of medicine, what I’m talking about by art is how we care. So, it’s the relationship between patients and their providers; business, how we pay; and, science, which is how we treat.
Amber: That makes sense. So, let’s go to the art because obviously a lot gets, you see the latest findings in the Journal of Medicine and it’s obviously the science part, and then everything going on in the current climate, you hear a lot about the business, or lack of. So, tell me more about why you think the art of medicine is so important.
Halee: That’s a great question, because really what we’ve seen in the last 40 years is that business and science have dominated the art of medicine. We’re being measured as physicians. We’re being measured on how productive are we, how quality oriented are we, what are we using for technology? What we’re not necessarily being measured on is the relationships. What we’ve seen, over and over again, in study after study, is it’s crucial that physicians have a good relationship with the people that they treat, and other providers as well, so that the people really embrace the advice, trust, and communication that they have with their provider, which leads to better health outcomes.
Amber: Yes, because people are more willing to tell you the full truth about what’s going on with them.
Halee: Well, it’s not only about that. Really, what we’ve seen is when there is a good relationship, the cost of care goes down, the quality goes up, and the satisfaction goes up, which are all the outcomes that we want.
Amber: Every outcome that you’d want.
Halee: And yet, by pushing only on business and science, we’re not getting there.
Amber: That’s right, because the balance is off.
Amber: So, which makes sense that you also talk about the culture of an organization and how important it is. It’s hard to measure, but it doesn’t mean it’s not important.
Halee: Yeah, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t measure it. That’s the thing in medicine, just because something is hard doesn’t mean you don’t do it. So, fundamental to achieving balance, I feel very strongly, is having a good culture, because you can’t sustain balance without a culture that welcomes it and values all components equally. And that’s really what I’m advocating for. So, when we talk about culture, what I mentioned here at the conference, at the Alpha Conference, was that it is the fundamental determinate of success of any startup business.
Amber: Which so many people don’t think of as, at least not yet.
Halee: And it’s really interesting because as a physician, we were always really, even if no one told us, the leader, if you will. So, here at the Alpha Conference where we have so many practicing physicians, you think of yourself as a leader, so you say, ok, I know all about leadership because I’ve been a leader, but that’s not sufficient to establish a good culture. So, it’s a certain thing where it’s kind of like describing an elephant to someone who doesn’t see. You’re kind of feeling one part of the elephant but you can’t really describe the whole organism. And that’s where we see a lot in regards to, in the healthcare industry in describing what a good culture looks like.
Amber: I see. So, does that mean it’s individual to each organization?
Halee: It is. The way that we describe culture is the how we do things around here. Cultures are really built somewhere between 20 and 150 people. Once it gets above 150 people, it’s a different culture. It may be same, they may sit next to each other, you may have people that cross into two different domains, but they’re different. So, a lot of our healthcare systems may have as many as 80 to 100,000 employees. Those are multiple different cultures. You can’t say the culture of.
Amber: May be like regional or per facility. It just depends.
Amber: So, what do you think, obviously, the balance and the valuing of the each individual components of the practice of medicine. What else can organizations strive for if they’re in a culture that you would identify as maybe negative, or not productive? What are some things they can do to change that?
Halee: One of the questions that I ask is, are we asking the right questions? That’s the first question that I ask. Really, the first question in regards to that is, what are we trying to achieve? I think a lot of times we get so busy and so much stuff layered on top of each other that we forget what our goal is. So, re-centering around what we’re trying to achieve, and putting focus on it, I think is a great way to start to address some of the cultural issues, because you’re able to kind of move away the stuff that doesn’t matter (Amber: The busy work), yeah, and focus on what does.
Amber: That’s great advice. Any parting words to any medical startups out there?
Halee: Yeah, so what I can conclusively say is balance is really good for business. It shows higher return on investment, higher satisfaction, both for the investor, the entrepreneur, and for the people in the end result using the product. So, I highly recommend checking it out.
Amber: Strive for it. Thank you so much for joining us, Halee. And thanks for letting me call you Halee. You can call me Amber.
Amber: Once again, this is the Alpha Conference in Napa, California. I’m Amber Ambrose, thanks for joining us.
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