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In Vivo

The nearly 1,200 physicians who treat patients at Columbia University Medical Center and
Michael Duncan, left, who recently joined the Faculty Practice Organization as its first executive director, with Richard U. Levine, the organization’s president since 2005.
Michael Duncan, left, who recently joined the Faculty Practice Organization as its first executive director, with Richard U. Levine, the organization’s president since 2005.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital – all members of the Faculty Practice Organization (FPO) – are on a mission. They comprise the largest multi-specialty medical group between Boston and Baltimore, and are set to make a difference in both the physician and patient experience here.
    The FPO has gone through several incarnations since it was formed in 1998. The new era of health care oversight and managed care in the ’90s made the faculty appreciate the need for organization and shared resources to better support their clinical practices and ensure patient satisfaction. The intervening years have brought increasing centralization of infrastructure functions that can ease the practice of medicine and simplify the patient experience.
    “None of us selected medicine as a career because we enjoyed the business side of medicine. Yet, effective practice management benefits both the physician and the patient and has an important role to play in successful delivery of quality care to patients,” says Richard U. Levine, M.D., clinical professor of ob/gyn and FPO president since 2005.
    Today this assembly of extraordinary practitioners is perhaps at its most cohesive. An executive team, led first by David Kahn, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry, and now by Dr. Levine has transformed the FPO into an inclusive group that works across departments and specialties to shape effective responses to changes in health care.
    For the past two years faculty committees have devoted countless hours to addressing key issues, such as applications of technology, patient services, malpractice insurance, and staff training. A new budget has just been approved by the FPO to fund many key programs.
Further leadership arrived in June, when Michael Duncan, former vice dean for clinical operations at Temple University, became the FPO’s first executive director. At Temple he helped a 392-member medical group reorganize its shared functions into a successful operation that reversed years of problems. Mr. Duncan says that academic medical centers must come to grips with the new economic climate for health care delivery if they are to survive and thrive.
    “Not long ago, the clinical aspect of the academic mission basically took care of itself – if you had great physicians, the patients came,” Mr. Duncan says. “This doesn’t happen automatically anymore. Today’s intensely competitive marketplace has forced us to change the way we think about delivering care. Like it or not, we must integrate sound business practices into our clinical practices. Patients expect it. In both the short and long term, doctors and patients benefit.”
    A critical aspect of the success of the clinical enterprise is to retain and recruit the highest caliber physicians. “Columbia has one of the greatest assemblies of clinical talent in the world. My job is to ensure that the infrastructure that supports them is also on the leading edge,” says Mr. Duncan.
    This echoes a theme voiced by Lee Goldman, M.D., who began as leader of CUMC this past July. “A key aspect of my job is to aggregate talent and ensure that Columbia remains a place where the best physicians, educators, and scientists are excited to come to work. A strong FPO is critical. Better infrastructure support improves the quality of our physicians’ practices, making their professional lives more productive and pleasant, and improves all aspects of care from the perspective of our patients,” says Dr. Goldman, executive vice president and dean of the faculties of health sciences and medicine.
    Patient satisfaction is a key focus for the FPO, the university, and the top-rated NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. On the horizon – adoption of electronic health records, improved scheduling, consolidated billing, and other business services that interact with patients. Overall redesign of space and systems is a long-term goal.
    “We are investing enormous energy in getting out in front of patient issues and establishing tracking devices and key indicators that will monitor the efficacy of our patient-centered programs,” says Dr. Levine. “Our faculty and staff are making it happen.”

—Marilyn Castaldi

FPO Committees and chairpersons
Revenue: Louis Bigliani, M.D.*
Operations Transition: David Brenner, M.D.*
Risk and Quality: Mary D’Alton, M.D.* and Michael Weiner, M.D.*
Support HR: David Kahn, M.D.*
CPPN-Contracting: Richard U. Levine, M.D.*
Finance: Eric Rose, M.D.*
Personnel and Compensation: Mike Shelanski, M.D., Ph.D.*
Practice Operations: Gail Williams, M.D.*

Grievance: Peter Altman, M.D.
Facilities: John Chabot, M.D.
Information Technology: Henry Spotnitz, M.D.
* Members of the FPO Executive Committee

Other Executive Committee members: Steve Shea, M.D. and Robert Kelly, M.D. (NYPH)