“If the country is ready to remake the health care system, a good place to start is by focusing on its 17,000 physician practices, which are the foundation for the system,” says Dr. Halee Fischer-Wright, president of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the premier association for professionals who lead medical practices, which represents 40,000 medical practice administrators, executives and leaders at over 12,500 health care organizations in the United States.

Her book, “Back to Balance: The Art, Science, and Business of Medicine,” starts with the premise that health care can be something better. She’s committed to reforming the art of medicine by utilizing technological innovations and keeping the human element of health care. The way to initiate that change is “by getting physicians engaged and empowered,” says Dr. Fischer-Wright. “I truly believe this is the first start and helps us to change from the ground up.”

Building a culture of care  

“We’re so busy taking care of the clinical elements, but there’s a personal element to health care as well.”

Organizational leaders can prioritize a patient-centered approach to create a culture of comprehensive care. “We are very focused on the patient and the needs of the patient,” says Dave Gans, a national authority on medical practice operations and health systems for MGMA.

While health care professionals traditionally are fixed on treating patients for their medical issues, they need to look beyond lab work, x-rays and symptoms. Gans says patient outcomes may improve when doctors, nurses and health care administrators focus on the patient’s clinical and non-clinical needs. “So often we lose sight of the patient,” he says. “We’re so busy taking care of the clinical elements, but there’s a personal element to health care as well.”

A patient-centered approach

He believes paying attention to the personal and medical needs of patients is the difference between providing good care and the best care. Gans and his MGMA colleagues encourages providers to ask, “What are the needs of the patient, and how can the organization meet those needs?”

For example, patients may need social and community resources, and information about palliative care. They may just want relief from their anxiety and pain, and talking to their doctor and medical providers can make them feel better.

Even evaluating office procedures can be beneficial to patients and providers. “So much of good patient care is good business care as well,” says Gans, who suggests looking at shortening patient wait times. Patients will be happy to be treated sooner and the streamlining can optimize office resources and have a positive effect on the doctors and staff.