Health care providers are the face of the U.S. health care system, playing a central role in delivering the care and services that patients need to support health and well-being. Yet, time and resources to build the leadership capacity of providers are limited, particularly within community health centers that serve a wide diversity of people with low incomes. In response to this need, L.A. Care Health Plan partnered with the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) to offer the Provider Leadership Program to enhance the capacity of providers serving marginalized communities.
CHCS recently spoke with Katrina Parrish, MD, Chief Quality and Information Executive, and James Kyle, MD, MDiv, Chief of Equity and Quality Medical Director, about L.A. Care Health Plan’s strategy to support Los Angeles County providers with the practical leadership skills necessary to create transformational change within their health centers and ultimately improve patient care and health outcomes.
Q: As a health plan, why is it important to invest in leadership training for providers?
K. Parrish: The more providers understand the nuances of the health care industry, financial structure, and operations, the more efficient our community health care ecosystem can be. Providers are generally not trained on business process in medical, dental, and clinical training, or do not have enough real-world experience. This program draws on best practices as well as leaders in the field of health care management to allow the learners exposure to corners of the industry they may not have access to otherwise.
Q: In what ways do you hope the Provider Leadership Program will impact providers and the care they provide? How do you see this investment impacting your plan members?
J. Kyle: We depend on the quality of provider leadership in the clinical space to assure quality and member satisfaction. Those leadership skills are invaluable to high quality of care. I hope that the program will empower providers to look at the larger landscape of health care delivery to better advocate for needed policy and practice changes that prove beneficial to our patients and to the community.
K. Parrish: Hopefully, all participants in the program will walk away with something that enhances their understanding of the community health care structure and process. Our hope is that they will feel empowered by new knowledge and ideas that will trigger them to investigate better processes for their organization. We do not expect folks to become experts in all areas but just to have that exposure and memory for things that may be possible when the time is right. With any luck, this enhances their organizational efficiency and enjoyment for work life. Ultimately, better processes lead to improved clinical quality and service outcomes, as well as higher patient satisfaction and overall experience.
Q: How do you see the Provider Leadership Program preparing providers to drive transformational change in our health care system?
K. Parrish: Transformation can come in various sizes. It would be great for the Provider Leadership Program participants to be empowered for large scale transformation and have new tools and methods by which to achieve it. More than that, we hope that they learn through the discussions and projects how to become more comfortable with smaller — but very important — identifications of waste and error modes, value mapping, root cause analysis, and PDSA cycles. Expertise in these change management steps will provide a stronger ability to lead large scale change more effectively.
J. Kyle: To drive transformational change, you must first have a vision about what the universe of possibilities looks like. The Provider Leadership Program helps to raise questions, foster discussions, and challenge assumptions to drive that change.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges in developing current and emerging provider leaders? How do you hope the Provider Leadership Program can address these obstacles?
J. Kyle: Time commitment is one of the biggest challenges, as providers are seeing more patients each day. Providers frequently feel powerless to make change and therefore need to be empowered to do so.
K. Parrish: The most valuable and limited asset is time. Providers working in community health probably have the least time for learning and must first focus on Maintenance of Certification. The Provider Leadership Program provides the rare opportunity to carve out time for learning focused and targeted for community health leaders — what they need to know and what would help them specifically. The other limited asset is funding, especially for further education. That is why L.A. Care sponsors this program — so finances do not have to weigh into the decision to participate.
Q: Many of today’s efforts are centered around advancing health equity. How do you see the Provider Leadership Program supporting providers to advance health equity?
J. Kyle: Front-line providers are the first responders to inequitable health care policy and practice. They see first-hand how a lack of health equity impacts the current and future health of their patients.
K. Parrish: Societal equity as well as health equity is an increasingly central focus for optimal outcomes. The Provider Leadership Program exposes participants to: (1) current evidence-based approaches; (2) discussion with peers and leaders on real-world issues and how to address them; and (3) the opportunity to apply these within their leadership projects to address disparities.
Q: What advice do you have for current and emerging provider leaders looking to drive change in their communities?
J. Kyle: Think big. Seek the right questions to find the right answers.
K. Parrish: Be bold and maintain an open mind. Learning never stops and if your mind remains open to new knowledge and opportunities the benefits are ever giving. So many transformations started with an unusual idea that was given attention and a chance. Boldness can be necessary to empower members of an organization to speak up, even if the message may be difficult for leadership to hear. Often the toughest feedback from the harshest critics can lead to the most meaningful change. If you can hear it, you can do it!