Q: How do you see the current state of health care in the Pikes Peak Region?
When we look back in ten years, Colorado Springs and the broader Pikes Peak Region will be one of four communities in the country where people will have wanted to be in health care innovation. The others being Pittsburgh, Bloomington, and Salt Lake City, all for different reasons. We have one and likely soon will have two Level 1 trauma centers. We’re also seeing an influx of angel and venture capital investments in our young health care businesses, and our community’s large prior military community offers a work force with a strong service-oriented work ethic. As Denver and Boulder continue becoming less business friendly, Colorado Springs is becoming one of the best communities in American to headquarter a health care business.
At the same time, we are growing so fast that our physician supply hasn’t kept pace with our population growth. Right now, our per capita supply of primary care physicians and psychiatrists is 37% below the national average. The CEO of a large practice in our community told me recently that ten percent of their clinical positions are unfilled, and that if they could fill those positions they’d have an equal amount of new positions they’d need to fill. Considering that it takes seven to fourteen years to train a physician depending on their specialty, this issue will take a communitywide effort to address.
Q: How can EPCMS and ProPractice help improve health care?
The key is putting control of health care back in the hands of physicians and patients, and that’s always been our mission. Since 1879, we’ve been in the business of supporting physicians so they can help their patients. Right now, our best approach is providing services directly to medical practices while maintaining our original membership concept. There are many things that keep physicians from spending more time with their patients. Our job is to alleviate those burdens.
We also know that 92% of physicians in America want to work in a setting where they have an ownership stake. At the same time, nearly 70% of physicians are employees of large health systems or other entities where they have no ownership. Both models have pros and cons, but with that big of a gap ProPractice empowers physicians to practice in their setting of choice.
Q: How do the services ProPractice offers impact patients?
ProPractice helps physicians help patients by giving them a Practice Made Perfect. By that, we mean that we alleviate the nonclinical items that get in between the physician and patient. We streamline their practices so they can focus their attention on patients, instead of focusing on the business of medicine. There are tangible items, like HIPAA or OSHA compliance, where we help practices. The bigger impact, however, comes in the intangible areas where we help. If your physician’s less stressed, or their attention’s not pulled away by fighting a medical claim or trying to get credentialed with a hospital, they’re going to provide better care.
Looking at it another way, right now, 57% of American physicians are reporting symptoms of burnout and/or depression, and the business of medicine’s the main cause. We’ve also reached a point where a physician commits suicide in America every day. Reducing the pressures on a physician so he or she can give a patient their full attention is the biggest way we positively impact patients.
Q: How are you making a difference in the lives of providers?
The average physician in America works two more hours per week than seven years ago, yet sees ten percent fewer patients. During that same period, we’ve seen a drastic increase in physician burnout. We know that the business and administrative matters are the main drivers of this situation. Our goal in enhancing EPCMS into ProPractice was originally and continues to be getting physicians back doing what they love, providing good patient care.
Q: Has this approach of providing a suite of non-clinical services to providers as a membership organization been done before?
We’re unique in the country. There are many professional associations that have service lines. There are also many private companies that provide services to medical practices under many different fee structures. We’re the only organization in America that considers itself a direct provider of services to medical practices under a membership model. Our membership structure looks more like Ent Credit Union, American Express, or Costco than it does the average medical society whose structure was created in the 1800s.