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LA-Based Health Plan Is Training Physicians to Become Better Leaders


L.A. Care Health Plan—the nation’s largest publicly operated health plan serving 2 million low-income patients—is training physicians in their network to become better leaders and, in turn, improving quality of care and patient outcomes.

In an ongoing effort to improve quality of care and patient outcomes, L.A. Care Health Plan is training physicians in their network to become better leaders.

Serving 2 million low-income patients, L.A. Care Health Plan—the nation’s largest publicly operated health plan—has fostered a long and deep partnership with its community clinics and safety-net providers, supplying them with resources such as health education materials and continuing education classes. The health plan’s Physician Leadership Program represents the next step in enhancing leaderships skills and boosting patient outcomes, explained Richard Seidman, MD, MPH, chief medical officer of L.A. Care Health Plan, in an interview with The American Journal of Managed Care®.

The 6-month training program is currently in its second class. The first class of the program ran from September 2016 through February 2017 with 20 participants. The current cohort started in April and will run through August. The program consists of 5 in-person seminars, 5 webinars, and several other face-to-face meetings with alumni of the program, said Seidman. Guest lecturers also make appearances and address topics vital to general leadership and to leadership skills specific to the network’s patient population.

“The physicians are taking the leadership training, presumably doing the jobs at their clinics that much better, and working with the rest of their leadership teams. They’re also assuming leadership roles in our local clinic association to help drive performance of the entire association of clinics, all of whom are in our network," said Seidman. “So, it’s a force multiplier effect. The stronger leaders we have in our network, the better off we all are.”

In the beginning of the program, participants' leadership styles are assessed, with the thought that in order to be an effective leader, one needs insight into their own leadership style so they can identify their strengths, explained Seidman.

In-person seminars include the following topics: leadership style and serving underserved communities; leading effective teams; managing healthcare services and finances; improving health center services; setting direction and change management; and participant projects. Webinars cover topics such as physician leadership in quality and safety, optimal leadership practices, and understanding healthcare disparities.

“[As a provider] this is important to us because at the end of the day, we understand that our member outcomes and member experiences are dependent upon and so greatly influenced by the care they get at the practice level,” said Seidman. “There’s only so much the health plans can do, and plans obviously play an important role, but at the end of the day, patients are assigned to providers, where they get their care.”

He added: “On an increasing basis, we’re trying to push quality management and care management closer to the practice site, and that takes strong leadership at the practice site level. Funding these training programs enables us to help build the capacity of our network so that at the end of the day we understand what’s driving our outcomes.”

Seidman said the goal is to achieve the triple aim of better health and better healthcare at a lower cost. An important key to hitting this mark is the understanding and treatment of the whole patient and recognizing the role of social determinants of health (SDOH), he said.

SDOH have increasingly been integrated into healthcare considerations. In February, a survey revealed that the majority of executives—including payers, hospitals, and governments—are increasingly adopting SDOH into their programs. Last month, the American College of Physicians released a set of 9 recommendations aimed at addressing SDOH in order to improve patients care and health outcomes.

L.A. Care Health Plan is working on getting better at making effective referrals to resources, community-based organizations, and existing government programs for their patients, said Seidman. While training physicians to better understand and address SDOH with their patients through the leadership program, L.A. Care has also used other resources to tackle these determinants. In February, the health plan committed $20 million over 5 years to Brilliant Corners, an agency that finds housing for people. The grant will provide housing for 300 people.

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