Greenville Health System Ambulatory CMO Dr. Saria Saccocio on the connection between access and quality

Saria Saccocio, MD, knows that care quality begins with access, and as ambulatory CMO and department chair of family medicine for Greenville (S.C.) Health System, improving access has been a top priority.

Before joining Greenville Health System in 2017, Dr. Saccocio served as CMO at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in Greenville, market CMO of South Central Virginia for Brentwood, Tenn.-based LifePoint Hospitals and CMO of Danville (Va.) Regional Medical Center.

Becker's Hospital Review caught up with Dr. Saccocio to discuss the primary initiative she will focus on in 2019 and her view on healthcare innovation.

Editor's Note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What's one strategic initiative will demand the most of your time and energy in 2019?

Dr. Saria Saccocio: Enhancing access to primary care will consume a significant majority of my time and energy in 2019. Population health management is measured according to quality metrics and patient outcomes. However, the foundation of connecting with patients and improving health starts with access to care. Traditional access, relying on face-to-face involvement for every encounter with patients, is no longer cost effective nor sustainable. As we expand our accountability to the communities we serve through payer and employer relationships, building capacity for a somewhat finite primary care workforce will challenge us to examine non-traditional and asynchronous sources of care.

For example, telemedicine utilizing virtual visits and electronic encounters are progressively considered as solutions while we consider that the consumer prioritizes healthcare according to convenience first in many cases and relationships second. How we as a health system deliver the right care, at the right time, through the right venue according to the consumers' needs and preferences will transform over the next one to five years.

Q: Healthcare takes a lot of heat for not innovating quickly. What's your take on this?

SS: In healthcare, we like to consider ourselves as cutting edge innovators of medicine and wellness. Healthcare has indeed been exposed to transformation in pockets and regions by risk taking health systems, health IT, and various other vendors of care management. One of our greatest barriers to rapid change is the financial conundrum we are in as we transition from fee-for-service volume demands to value-measured according to cost savings and patient outcomes. As long as we continue to be paid according to procedures and interventions, the healthcare industry will follow the same reliable playbook.

Non-profit health systems with slim margins can be limited in their ability to invest in alternative outpatient-based innovation while cannibalizing inpatient revenue. For-profit healthcare organizations held accountable by stockholders quarter by quarter are also challenged to trial care management and wellness programs in which the return on investment is less than what is currently captured traditionally in a hospital setting. To quicken the pace of innovation in healthcare, collaboration between payers, employers, and healthcare providers must be supported financially while we transition from the old model to the new.

Q: Can you share some praise with us about people you work with? What does greatness look like to you when it comes to your team?    

SS: Team is everything. A highly functional, collaborative team can build resilience, efficiency, and achieve measurable success when focused on aligned priorities and goals of the organization. For example, our ambulatory team at Greenville Health System laughs often, shares openly, works hard, celebrates success, and learns constantly. When coming to work is fun and the team you work with supports and challenges one another, joy prevails.

We work hard and share openly, knowing that all opinions and thoughts bring merit to the conversation. It is because of our diversity of thought, transparency of communicating, and curiosity of ideas from each member of the team that we excel consistently. Our accountability of one another and trust that the work will be accomplished allows us to navigate through potential ideas and develop solutions timely and proficiently.

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