I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Peter Watson, a board-certified internist in Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Watson is affiliated with several hospitals in the area.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I am a native Detroiter, having grown up in the city for most of my life. I benefited from a strong community on the east side of Detroit and mom committed to strong education and service. Currently, I serve as vice president for care management and outcomes at Health Alliance Plan (HAP) and as medical director for HAP Midwest Health Plan, a HAP subsidiary. HAP is headquartered in Detroit.
At HAP, I oversee 90 personnel (nurses, social workers, support staff) who provide care management, disease management and transitions of care for HAP members enrolled in government programs (Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and Medicare-Medicaid Plans). As the medical director for HAP Midwest Health Plan, I also provide operational leadership for the MI Health Link Medicare-Medicaid Dual Demonstration Program, provider management, compliance and accreditation programs. I also serve as the organization’s medical liaison with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Michigan Association of Health Plans (MAHP).
Prior to joining HAP, I spent 11 years overseeing the Henry Ford Medical Group Hospitalist Program at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, one of the nation’s leading comprehensive, integrated health systems. For nine of these years, I was head of the division of Hospital Medicine for the Henry Ford Medical Group, which is the largest division in the HFMG Department of Medicine with more than 50 faculty members devoted to inpatient practice, as well as hospice and palliative medicine programs deployed at three system hospitals. I am board certified in Internal Medicine with focused practice in hospital medicine. While working full time at HAP, I continue to work as an attending staff clinical hospitalist for Henry Ford Medical Group, seeing patients delivering short stay hospital care on weekends.
In addition to my role in clinical leadership, I have been very involved in residency education at Henry Ford, serving as the associate director of the Transitional Year program and as the associate program director for Internal Medicine residency early in my career. In addition, I had leadership roles in many hospital quality initiatives across Henry Ford Health System, including improving collaborative practices in the hospital, standardization of observation medicine practices, and promoting high-quality palliative/end-of life care
My state and national leadership positions in organized medicine have included serving on the Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association and key roles in the Michigan State Medical Society and the Society of Hospital Medicine. One recent accomplishment I am proud of is receiving my master’s degree in medical management from Carnegie Melon’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy earlier this year.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Moving from physician leadership to health plan leadership over the last 18 months has created daily humorous events. Working for a health plan, even as a physician requires learning a whole new language. I thought physicians were bad at using non-standard abbreviations — insurance has its own terminology that requires intense study. Most of my first six months was spent asking my colleagues can you define what you just said, I heard all acronyms and only one verb!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The history of HAP is really fascinating. HAP first opened its doors in 1960 under the name Community Health Association (CHA), a nonprofit community health plan founded by UAW President Walter Reuther. CHA fulfilled Reuther’s dream of providing access to comprehensive health plans for industry workers. One of HAP’s principles today is the core value of health maintenance through preventative care, which was at the heart of CHA. It’s truly amazing to see that this principle still guides HAP to this day. We’ve grown beyond offering one HMO product into a sophisticated health plan that continues to make a significant contribution to the health and well-being of the lives we touch. Founded by workers themselves, HAP is always community focused and embedded in the needs of the various areas we serve. We really pride ourselves on that point.
HAP got its start in Detroit and has grown a lot since then but being a Detroit native myself and a member of the community, I am proud to be a part of the Detroit revival movement and to work for an organization that has never forgotten its roots and continues to serve the people of Detroit and Michigan.
Not many health care organizations can say they are embedded with a major health system. In fact, HAP and Henry Ford Health System are a united entity allowing us to offer the utmost phenomenal care to our members by offering Henry Ford Health System’s services and expertise.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Yes! I can say with confidence HAP is always looking to be more customer-centric. With that comes an exciting program we have launched to serve Medicare-Medicaid Plan members. The Medicare-Medicaid Dual Demonstration program (MMP) is a unique health plan product serving 5,000 vulnerable patients in Wayne and Macomb counties of Michigan who have chronic disease and frequent hospitalizations. I began focusing on hospital readmission reductions through an intense commitment to patients, use of evidence to improve the care coordination process, and team training to improve outcomes for HAP MMP members. Working alongside nurses and social work care coordinators, we focused on training to support safe discharges patients so they could be safely transitioned to their home environment, leading to fewer hospital visits. In 2017, we were able to reduce readmission rates for MMP members by 23 percent. We worked closely with our members to ensure they were educated upon their hospital release and even made home visits as needed. This was an excellent way to educate our care coordinators and lend a personal touch to our members.
Currently, only 13 states have a demo program like the MMP program. It’s very exciting to put such a strong program into place for our high-risk members to give them the best chance of excelling in an environment rather than have them return repeatedly to the hospital.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their employees to thrive?
I like to think that no matter the size of your organization or how big or small you are, it is important to make the best possible product. The quality of the product will make the impact. A key point to remember is to focus on what you are delivering. A successful product always goes back to the people — leaders should invest in their people if they want the best results. To grow and accomplish big ideas, you not only have to have the best possible product, but the best people as well. Growing really starts internally — once you have achieved success internally, you are bound to see positivity as a result.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
In addition to the support of my family, I have been fortunate to have many individual’s physicians, nurses, and others who taught me and influenced my thinking about patient care and my current work with the health plan. My daily inspiration are our members and the patients I still care for as a physician when I perform clinical duties. Their struggles to maintain health, and overcome health and social barriers challenge me to improve our program.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have always tried to make sure my work is focused on the patients and those I work with. What are the needs of our health plan members? What are the barriers to ensuring those people are getting the care they need? They come first. In addition, I have always made efforts to make those who work around me better at what they do. I often learn more from them however, than the other way around. Having a great team of individuals focused on member outcomes makes every day a good one.
Can you share the top five ways that technology is changing the experience of going to the doctor? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. AI: Imagine your doctor has a robot. AI can allow an office to go back to urgent matters and allow a robot to assist with basic, preventative procedures and ordering.
· AI will be the biggest trend when it comes to going to the doctor in the future. AI is constantly taking in new situations and coming up with an appropriate scenario for its patient. AI will not replace a doctor but will free-up doctors and office staff from minor issue, which will allow them to be more attentive to emergency situations. AI will potentially take multiple cases at once and accelerate care quicker.
2. Uberization: Healthcare has begun to come to the patient, rather than the patient visiting a facility. Think Uber.
· Uberization essentially allows a patient to see a doctor with just a click of a button. Not only is this convenient for the patient, but also gives doctors freedom to create a schedule allowing for better work/life balance.
· It will really streamline the healthcare system, allowing for more flexibility for the patient and doctor. Uberization will allow us to provide more ways of taking care of our patients.
· One extension of Uberization is telehealth, which has already taken affect with most healthcare companies and doctors. It’s a way of delivering health care services through different technologies (cell, Skype, online chat, etc.).
· We are seeing more trends with improved technology to bring care into people’s homes. Many services once only available in hospitals can be delivered in the safety and comfort of a patient’s home. The trend toward more “hospital at home” services will change the way we look at some forms of acute care.
3. Wearables: Although these are in existence, the extent of which they are beginning to be developed for healthcare has just begun.
· Currently, one in six consumers currently own and use wearable tech. With that being the case, wearables are bound to have a breakthrough in the medical industry. Imagine wearables capturing crucial data from you and then sending it off to your physician. Wearables could technically become life-saving devices.
4. Pill Cam: This means exactly what it’s called. Patients swallow a pill with a built-in camera to scope out their colon.
· Pill Cams are already being used by some physicians. The Pill Cam allows doctors to video a patient’s intestines at 360 degrees, allowing screening for tumors or other problems within. The Pill Cam can capture up to 870,000 images while the patient feels nothing — pretty cool. This is a great alternative to the traditional colonoscopy. This pill is so high-tech that is delivers its results wirelessly to an antenna, where the images are then saved to an SD memory card.
5. Genetic Data: Also known as precision medicine, genetic data will help better understand a patient’s history and what they are more prone to. Genetic testing may allow doctors to uncover issues more quickly and tailor more effective plans of care. In addition, care will be better customized to the genetic uniqueness of the patient. This has already revolutionized cancer care, where chemotherapy and radiation regimens are refined to the specific genetic makeup of the patient’s tumor — reducing unnecessary side effects with the right dosage of treatment.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
There are two I particularly like that can be applied to any business:
1. “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” — Henry Ford
2. “Nobody can be successful on their own, a great team is always required.”
3. “The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.” — Dr. William Osler, Johns Hopkins
4. “We need to remember that people are complex, more than just a diagnosis, sometimes the best medicine is connecting with one another.”
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
Actually, I really value the time I get to spend with HAP’s members — they are the ones who provide the most important feedback that allows me to do my job even better. I wish I had more time to spend with them. That would be my idea of a VIP lunch.
Originally published at medium.com