5 questions with MEP Health CEO Dr. Angelo Falcone

Angelo Falcone, MD, wears many hats: emergency physician, CEO, writer and triathlete, to name a few.

Since 2005, Dr. Falcone has served as CEO of Germantown, Md.-based MEP Health, a physician-owned emergency and outpatient care partner for hospitals that he co-founded with three other physicians in 1997. His work helped MEP grow into what it is today — a nearly 300-employee organization that treats over 500,000 patients each year in the northeastern United States.

Based approximately 50 miles outside Baltimore, MEP Health is currently partnered with seven hospitals in Maryland and one in Connecticut. The organization, which focuses on putting patients first, currently serves as a national leader in providing efficient, quality care while sticking to its physician-led roots.

Here Dr. Falcone took time to discuss his background with MEP Health, what he does in his free time and why he still works shifts in the ER.

Question: How has MEP Health grown since 1997? How have you helped in that endeavor?

I was one of four founding partners who started the group in 1997. Like most smaller practices, we were a single hospital group at the time. After a couple years, we decided what we were doing was a little different than other groups in the area, so we looked for opportunities to grow. There happened to be an opportunity in the market in 2005, which was the first time we stepped outside our original location at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, Md.

From there it's been one opportunity after another. The interest is for two reasons: Individuals are interested in growing our group, and hospitals and health systems are interested in a group aligned with hospital goals like reducing ED wait times and improving satisfaction and patient experience. We have found physician alignment happens best when they have an ownership mentality as they do in our business model.

Q: MEP Health is founded around the principles of physician ownership and leadership development, as well as the motto of "Making People Better." What is the significance of these ideals at MEP?

Like any company that's trying to do good work, people want to know their contribution is valued. They're generating some ownership interest. We started as a physician-led organization that believed we could provide better services together than if we were employees of a hospital. That philosophy has worked for 18 years now.

When you talk about culture, it's all about recognizing the work people do on a daily basis and being consistent in what you tell them. They want to feel as though their individual contribution is making a difference. As you get into larger organizations, that becomes harder and harder. You have to find a way to stay small to keep that kind of community feeling.

Q: MEP Health recently announced a partnership with Canton, Ohio-based U.S. Acute Care Solutions, a leader in emergency medicine and hospitalist services. Why did MEP and USACS pursue this relationship?

Just like I mentioned, there are numerous changes in the healthcare environment. We are a large group in our region. As we looked ahead, we did not think we would be able to be relevant in the larger market, and I think size and scale do matter in this day and age. The Affordable Care Act has driven hospitals and health systems to the point of consolidating, and insurers have also begun consolidating.

At MEP Health, we've been talking internally about our success and what we're going to have to do to be successful in the future. Over the last nine months, we've been looking at potential partners with three qualifications in mind: Is the partner going to be consistent with our values? Are the new opportunities for our people going to be equal to or greater than the opportunities we currently have? Is the partner going to be able to control and influence their economic destiny moving forward?

USACS is a physician-led organization with size and scale. It met all the criteria for us, including, most importantly, a great cultural fit as well as access to investment capital. Our intent is to offer an alternative for emergency physician groups looking to preserve the partnership model versus selling their practice. We will close on the deal at the end of this month.

Q: Although you're MEP Health's CEO and one of its founding partners, you continue to work shifts in the ER, often alongside new hires. How do you manage your time so you can do this, and why is it important?

That's a constant question that my wife sometimes asks me!

Twenty percent of my time now is purely clinical. Sometimes I have to leave two hours in advance to travel to work in an ER. It's important for leadership to find grounded truth, however that may be. Communication is great, but if you work alongside someone on a weekend shift, you see what's going on, and that speaks louder than any memo I could send out. It does become harder and harder over time.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside the C-suite?

Other than taking care of my five kids, I like writing [on my blog]. I like putting some thoughts out there on my perspective as a clinical physician and a CEO. Since I work on the CEO business side and the clinical side, I have to balance those two worlds and be sensitive to rapid changes in healthcare. It's a unique perspective and one I like to interject in my blog posts.

I had a goal of doing an Ironman Triathlon before I was 50, but that dream is long gone! I've done five Olympic distance triathlons, though. I started doing them about three years ago. I like the balance of triathlons — the combination of swimming, biking and running makes the training more interesting. It seems to fit the personality of an ER doc of variety and challenge. 

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