The corner office: MGMA CEO Dr. Halee Fischer-Wright on becoming part of the solution

The healthcare industry has its fair share of challenges, from navigating the ceaselessly changing regulatory environment to improving quality and outcomes amid shrinking reimbursements. At the helm of Englewood, Colo.-based Medical Group Management Association, Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, emphasizes the importance of working together to devise effective solutions.

Dr. Fischer-Wright became president and CEO of MGMA, an association for medical practice administrators and executives, in March 2015. Previously, Dr. Fischer-Wright, a pediatrician, served as CMO of St. Anthony North Health Campus in Westminster, Colo., which is part of Colorado based Centura Health System. Early in her career she opened her own medical practice. She also served as a management consultant and president of 680-physican Rose Medical Group in Denver. Dr. Fischer-Wright coauthored the New York Times bestselling book Tribal Leadership and is a nationally recognized speaker.

As CEO of MGMA, Dr. Fischer-Wright is responsible for providing strategic leadership and vision to the organization and the healthcare industry more broadly, managing the MGMA staff and operations and representing medical group practices.

Dr. Fischer-Wright earned a medical degree from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver and a master's degree in medical management from the University of Southern California.

Here, Dr. Fischer-Wright took the time to answer our seven questions.

What's one thing that really piqued your interest in healthcare?

Most of my interest in healthcare started when my dad began having health issues. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was in high school. While I was a kid I thought about being a doctor, but when he was diagnosed it really propelled me into thinking about how we could do things better in healthcare. The only thing I could think of is getting involved in the solution. That is reinforced for me all the time.

What do you enjoy most about Englewood?

I'm a Denver native, and I now live about a mile from where I was born. For me this is the perfect city. It's a mix of all of the amenities of a large metropolitan city but it's in a beautiful setting. There are nearly 300 days of sunshine a year. I'm an hour and a half from the mountains — I get to enjoy all of the benefits of being outside for all four seasons. I also get to live close to my family, which is really important to me.

If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry's problems overnight, which would it be?

One of the things MGMA is focused on is decreasing complexity. Complexity in healthcare has geometrically grown over the last five to 10 years, and it is changing healthcare for the worse.

The complexity is multi-factoral. It's not only about the amount of regulations. If it was, we could probably figure that out. It's also about technology and how it affects the patient and doctor's interaction, and about how much of the cost of health insurance has shifted to the patient. There are so many factors that emphasize the business aspect and science of medicine, while the art of medicine — the relationship between providers, the practice and the patient — gets lost.

All of those challenges are intersecting in ways that prevent us from experiencing the outcomes we want. It's not as if there is one factor that could disappear and make everything better.

What do you consider your greatest talent or skill outside of the C-suite?

My greatest talent throughout my time as a practicing pediatrician, running a medical practice or serving as a business consultant has been building high-performance teams. One leader alone cannot impact an organization or an industry — it's groups of people who have that influence.

How do you revitalize yourself?

This is probably the biggest challenge for me because I love my job and working so much. But I have a mindfulness practice, I exercise— I especially like jogging. I also love to cook — my husband and I entertain quite a bit. I would also say I’m a passionate reader – my work reading is healthcare but my pleasure reading is everything else.

One book I read recently is one of the best I've read in a long time. It's called Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford.

What's one piece of advice you remember most clearly?

When I was working as a business consultant I interviewed the CEO of Men's Wearhouse. I was so impressed by the way he was able to make his business so successful. I remember thinking, "retail is retail…," but he really blew me away with success, so I asked him for his advice and he said, "Halee, if you believe it, you'll see it." That always stuck with me, and so far, it's been utterly true.

What do you consider your greatest achievement at MGMA so far?

I have to acknowledge the fact that I'm still relatively new to MGMA. It's a 90-year-old organization and I've been here 18 months.  We’ve done a lot of great things, and I'd say our biggest accomplishment is that we're moving the organization from one that reports on healthcare; to one that is leading the direction healthcare is going. We're still on that journey and I'm excited about it. Anytime we talk about what we're doing it makes me grin. 

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