The word ‘progressive’ can mean different things to different people, particularly when used to describe a health system. To Jeff Brown, it means an organization that breaks free from traditional boundaries, both when it comes to patient care and its guiding philosophies. It’s precisely what he sought when he arrived at Martin’s Point earlier this year, and he hasn’t been disappointed. In this interview, Brown talks about the non-hospital-centric model that he believes is the future of healthcare, why his timing was perfect in terms of strategic planning, and how his team is working to create a seamless care experience. He also talks about partnering with vendors, the dire need to focus on senior care, and his passion for teaching.
- About Martin’s Point: A “progressive ambulatory care center”
- Focus on senior care
- Healthcare 2.0 meets Pop Health 2.0
- Paradigm shift from episodic care to integrated holistic care
- athenahealth EHR — “The challenge is around usability & optimization.”
- Vendor management: “It’s a 50-50 partnership.”
- Pop health as strategic pillar
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We’re in a position to really quantify and use big data and analytics in a way that’s exciting and can serve both our senior and elderly care population as well as the other patients and members in our community.
The main challenge is still around usability and optimization within EMRs. We’re still struggling to find unique ways to get quantifiable data out in order to do more progressive population health and analytics.
It’s bringing the vendor to the table and presenting the real value-add, not just for us as an organization, but for them as a vendor. I think Martin’s Point is uniquely positioned, being both a delivery system and a health plan, to offer many vendors a really unique formula, a strategic partnership, and a Petri dish for progressing in a very different way.
We don’t want to invest in just technology for technology’s sake. We really want to bring the culture along our journey. We want to make the right investments in people, process and technology, and we want to lay out a strategic, year-over-year plan that allows us to be as competitive and as successful as anyone else in the market.
Gamble: Hi Jeff, thank you so much for taking some time to speak with healthsystemCIO.com.
Brown: My pleasure, Kate. It’s great to speak to you again.
Gamble: You too. I think a good way to start would be talking about Martin’s Point Health Care, really what the organization’s about, the primary goals, things like that.
Brown: As you can imagine, I’m thrilled to be with Martin’s Point as their new chief information officer. I’ve been onboard about three months now. Having spent most of my career in Massachusetts and New England, I was very aware of Martin’s Point and the progressive nature of their work as an integrated care delivery model. And so when the stars aligned and I was given the opportunity, obviously, I jumped on it. And living in Portland, Maine is beautiful as well.
Martin’s Point is a really incredible organization. What makes them unique is they’re actually a healthcare provider and a healthcare insurance company. So they’re a delivery system and a health plan. They have approximately seven healthcare centers throughout Maine. In the state of Maine, they’re known as the experts in senior care. They actually have the largest and highest rated Medicare Advantage Plan in the state of Maine.
What most people might not know is Maine also has the oldest population in the country. And so they’re really a physician-led organization with these amazing care delivery centers scattered throughout some of the most important sites in Maine that’s really serving the community at a very local level. As a CIO, it’s very exciting to be part of it.
Gamble: Right, and senior care is an area where we’re starting to see more emphasis and for good reason with the aging baby boomer population. Certainly there’s that demand for all types of care for that age group.
Brown: It’s a really astute point. As a CIO working with the amazing executive team and leadership team at Martin’s Point, from my perspective, I look at it as Healthcare 2.0 meets Population 2.0. If you think about a population health strategy, what we’re doing is preparing for enhanced competition within the market. As a progressive ambulatory care center, we still have to be staged and poised to make the right decision to take care of our population in the best way we can. We’re still very concerned about how do we enhance the patient experience for all of our patients and customers. We’re focused on how do we shift the paradigm from episodic care delivery to a really integrated holistic care delivery system, and we’re really focused on physician and care delivery team alignment. And then of course, as the CIO — and this is a very unique to Martin’s Point as an organization, having both a care delivery and a health plan — we’re in a position to really quantify and use big data and analytics in a way that’s exciting and can serve both our senior and elderly care population as well as the other patients and members in our community.
Gamble: Right, that’s something that we’d definitely want to get into. Now, in terms of the IT organization, what does that department look like? What’s the approximate size of this and do you have representatives at those healthcare centers? How does that work?
Brown: That’s a great question. For an integrated ambulatory organization, I would say we’re about the right size for an IT department. We’re in the 50 to 60-person range but, of course, that encompasses both folks in IT and some distributed folks throughout the delivery system and the health plan side. I think what’s unique is the IT organization in this particular case, as I stated earlier, we’re both servicing what you’d consider to be a core delivery system advanced integrated ambulatory model, but we’re also serving a really progressive and really successful health plan.
Under that plan, we have two major health plans that we serve: Generations Advantage which is the largest Medicare Advantage Plan in Maine, and that serves approximately 40,000 seniors. And we’re also very proud to be the health plan for the USFHP, which serves our military families. That actually spans Maine, Vermont, Upstate New York, parts of Northern Pennsylvania, which is approximately 47,000 covered lives. It’s challenging for IT. Fortunately, I’ve inherited an amazing leadership team and some really great talent within Martin’s Point. I feel very lucky.
Gamble: That is definitely a unique position that you’re in as CIO. From an EHR perspective, what do you have in place?
Brown: Currently, we’re using athenahealth. We’ve been on that now for approximately four years. As you can imagine, that market is shifting. We’re strongly hoping to continue our strategic partnership with athenahealth. To be honest, I think like most CIOs that I speak to and a lot of the surveys that are being done, the main challenge is still around usability and optimization within EMRs. I think we’re still struggling to find unique ways to get quantifiable data out in order to do more progressive population health and analytics. We’re going to be working, hopefully, more strategically and much closer with athenahealth within the next few months to really figure out if they can align our strategic objectives and goals around population health and value-based care to theirs, and if they will be able to meet our needs in the future.
Gamble: That’s an interesting area to get into, talking about that vendor relationships, because you have a lot of choices, but you want to find the right one. You want to have a relationship where there’s that trust and where you can give input that will not only help the product, but also benefit other organizations. It’s a great opportunity, but probably a tricky balance in some ways.
Brown: Yes. I’ve been in healthcare IT my whole career which is now more than 15 years, and I actually started my career with a major healthcare IT vendor, so I’ve been on the other side. I worked as a consultant where I’ve been in between both the vendor and the client. And now I’ve been on the healthcare side for many years, and my honest opinion is I really do believe at the end of the day it’s a 50-50 partnership.
For me, as a CIO for any organization I go to — and I think I’ve been relatively successful — it’s bringing the vendor to the table and presenting the real value-add, not just for us as an organization, but for them as a vendor. I think Martin’s Point is uniquely positioned, being both a delivery system and a health plan, to offer many vendors a really unique formula, a strategic partnership, and a Petri dish for progressing in a very different way.
We have, obviously, access to vast amounts of data through our health plan and claims data, as well as the delivery system side with EHR data, where we can really start to provide real-time data and analytics and risk stratification models, all married with a very progressive, integrated care delivery system that can provide value to patients and families in a much quicker pace, but we need partners and I think partners need us. And so my role as a CIO is to close that gap as quickly and as efficiently as I can.
Gamble: Right. Now at this point, what are you doing in the population health space? I know you’ve only been there for a few months, so maybe it’s more something you’re just starting to look at.
Brown: Right. Like I said earlier, when I came onboard, it was perfect timing. Our executive team and the organization had been undergoing a strategic plan, and as you can imagine, one of our main pillars is population health. The way it’s unfolded over the last few months, I’m seeing it as that Healthcare 2.0 meets Population Health 2.0. So we have the classic maturity model laid out, but I think what differentiates us, as our CEO Dr. David Howes points out, is we don’t want to invest in just technology for technology’s sake. We really want to bring the culture along our journey. We want to make the right investments in people, process and technology, and we want to lay out a strategic, year-over-year plan that allows us to be as competitive and as successful as anyone else in the market. We’re laying out, I think, a very poignant, tactical yet strategic plan that’s going to get us to a place that ultimately is going to serve patients and families in the best way possible.