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.
- Patient engagement — “We can’t underestimate how technologically savvy many seniors are.”
- MPHC’s “high-touch, interactive care delivery model”
- Balancing technology with the human touch
- Pros of working for a “progressive, nimble” organization
- From New England to Seattle, and back
- His passion for teaching — “It keeps me on my toes.”
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There’s a net effect where we have to take into consideration the technology component, but at the same time, what’s really unique with Martin’s Point is we’re local. We’re embedded in the community, and we embrace a high-touch interactive care delivery model.
We’re not the size and scale as many acute large academic medical centers. But for a CIO, that’s actually the exciting part; we’re very progressive. We’re nimble.
As opposed to being hospital-centric with a really large team and a large budget, it allows me to focus on really what the next generation and curve of healthcare is going to be. In many ways, I feel like I’m more at the forefront of the innovative curve being at Martin’s Point than I have been with any other organization I’ve worked at.
For me, it’s very synergistic. I find it keeps me on my toes, and it really is my way of giving back to the local community. To be honest, at every program I’ve taught in, I’ve usually ended up hiring some tremendous talent.
Gamble: When people look at the senior population, I think we’re finally starting to see less of the misconception that they’re hesitant to use things like social media and apps. At least I hope so, because in many cases they are frequent users of these technologies and are embracing them, especially when it comes to their health.
Brown: Yes, you’re so right. I don’t think we can underestimate how technologically savvy many seniors are. Equally important, I think about the patients and families and the social support structure that surrounds our senior and elderly populations, and not underestimating that they’re all connected. And so there’s a net effect where we have to take into consideration the technology component, but at the same time, what’s really unique with Martin’s Point is we’re local. We’re embedded in the community, and we embrace a high-touch interactive care delivery model. We’re very supportive of people needing to call us, especially since we have some very sick patients, very complex patients. We have patients with very specific social determinant needs.
I believe one of the unique parts of Martin’s Point is that on the health plan side, our Generations Advantage program can be a real value-add to many patients and families. But often times that might require an in-person visit or a phone call to explain certain parts of that health plan and the advantages that it can bring you. We still want to create that high-touch care model, whether it’s through telephone or in-person visits or walk-ins, and so we’re bridging both sides of that equation.
Gamble: Right. Do you offer virtual visits or telehealth, or are there plans in place for that?
Brown: Yes. We’re dabbling a little bit in that now and that is definitely on our strategic road map. In particular, we’re looking at telephonic care and more progressive forms of virtual care through different types of software and application. The thing we have to consider is, what’s the right level of balance between the ease of use in technology, while still making patients and family feel that they’re part of the care delivery experience and circle that’s really unique to Martin’s Point? But I’m excited about some of the things that we’re thinking of in the future in that space.
Gamble: Right. Now, you alluded before about some of your previous CIO roles, most recently at Seattle Children’s. You talked about what made you want to come to Martin’s Point, but can you talk about the biggest differences in being at this type of organization versus the hospital environment?
Brown: Each organization brings its own experience and culture. What I love about Martin’s Point is that obviously we’re not the size and scale as many acute large academic medical centers. But for a CIO, that’s actually the exciting part; we’re very progressive. We’re nimble. We’ve got some amazing IT talent. We do a lot of custom development work.
And for me, what’s most exciting is the ability to be at the strategic table with executive leadership, really focusing on things like population health, things like advanced care delivery models, and things like how are we going to partner much more progressively within the community to better oversee the triple aim components of cost, quality and patient experience — not just within Martin’s Point but throughout the greater Maine area, and even bleeding into New Hampshire.
For me, as opposed to being hospital-centric with a really large team and a large budget, it allows me to focus on really what the next generation and curve of healthcare is going to be. In many ways, I feel like I’m more at the forefront of the innovative curve being at Martin’s Point than I have been with any other organization I’ve worked at. That’s very exciting as a CIO.
Gamble: Sure. Do you think that we’ll start to see more organizations like Martin’s Point start to pop up in the future, especially with all the changes we’re seeing in healthcare?
Brown: I do. One of the main reasons I was drawn to Martin’s Point — and I think a lot of great talent is starting to see that as well — is I firmly believe places like Martin’s Point really are the care delivery model of the future. These are advanced ambulatory centers that can serve a single patient in a very unique way.
Even in our Maine Portland Health Center, where I just had the privilege of shadowing some physicians the other day, the patient experience is just remarkable. You walk in, you get registered, and literally it’s all in the same facility. There’s a pharmacy. You can get your labs drawn. You can get referred to physical or occupational therapy. You can see your PCP or your specialist, and it’s all wrapped within a very progressive care delivery team. We even have population health nurses at each one of the sites that are coordinating these populations in a very advanced way.
And then to juxtapose that within the background of some really progressive IT systems data and analytics, all backed by one of the most impressive health plans and staff I’ve ever had the experience of working with, I think what Martin’s Point has created and will continue to create is truly a formula for how to deliver the best possible care in the future.
Gamble: Right. And as far as personally moving across the country, I know you had been in New England and then went to Seattle and back again. How was that as far as making that move?
Brown: Like I was telling you earlier, I think Portland to Seattle is the same general latitude. It’s just more than 3,000 miles apart. But for me, coming back to New England has been a wonderful transition. Seattle Children’s is a remarkable organization, and their leadership team fully embraced my move back east. But for me, this is coming home. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than in the New England market, and especially at Martin’s Point. It’s been wonderful.
Gamble: Another thing I had noticed is that, from looking at your LinkedIn profile, it seems like teaching is something that’s been important to you. I wanted to talk about how that has enriched you, and why you enjoy it so much.
Brown: My teaching career started years ago when I finished my master’s degree at Northeastern University in Informatics, which I believe at the time was one of the first accredited Masters programs, specifically in the Boston area. From there, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching at Northeastern and Brandeis. And actually, when I went out to Washington, I was given a great opportunity to help develop at the University of Washington an analytics program. So now that I’m back in Maine, I’ll certainly be looking for other teaching opportunities.
For me, it’s very synergistic. I find it keeps me on my toes, and it really is my way of giving back to the local community. To be honest, at every program I’ve taught in, I’ve usually ended up hiring some tremendous talent. If you read all the literature and all the studies and all the market and job trend analysis on healthcare informatics programs and analytics programs focused on data, healthcare as an industry is still remarkably underserved in those areas. There’s definitely a talent deficit in that pool, and so I will always be an advocate for any university or college that is trying to train the next generation of much needed skills in this space. I’m sure you can look forward to me teaching at some point at a local university or somewhere in New England relatively soon.
Gamble: That’s great. It’s beneficial on both sides.
Gamble: Okay, well, I think that covers what I wanted to talk about.
Brown: Great, I appreciate it. Thank you.
Gamble: You’re welcome. And enjoy Portland. I was there two years ago for a wedding and was just blown away. I’d never been to that part of Maine, and I loved it.
Brown: Yeah, it’s absolutely beautiful. If you ever go back, you should definitely check out Cape Elizabeth. It’s probably got some of the most beautiful scenery you’d ever imagine. I really appreciate it.
Gamble: Okay, thanks again. Hope to speak with you in the future.