VSSL Voices: New Role with the HCA
VSSL member Christopher Chen, MD, MBA recently transitioned from his existing role as Hospitalist and Medical Director of Value Management at Valley Medical Center to a new role as Associate Medical Director at the Washington Health Care Authority (HCA).
As part of our “VSSL Voices” series -- which features team members, friends, and supporters of the Lab -- we caught up with Dr. Chen to learn more about this new work.
VSSL Voices: Tell us about your new role at the HCA!
Christopher Chen: The Washington State Health Care Authority purchases health care on behalf of over 2.5 million Washingtonians, including those covered under the Public Employee Benefits Program, the School Employee Benefits Program, and Apple Health (Medicaid). As Associate Medical Director, I will be leading clinical strategy for Apple Health, and broadly speaking will help drive care transformation, innovation, and value-based care delivery. More specifically, my duties will include reviewing and developing evidence-based policies, as well as working with various organizations to assure appropriateness of care. I also look forward to providing clinical support to the Medicaid Demonstration’s Accountable Communities of Health and other statewide collaboratives.
VV: What excites you most about this role?
CP: I’m most excited about working on a broader, more foundational level to address the problems of our complex and fragmented healthcare system. Much of my work as a medical director involves solving operational issues in care transitions, improving interdisciplinary communication, and increasing rigor around medical decision-making. Over and over again, I get this nagging sense that I’m solving problems related to the broader health care system that others have solved before, and that others will solve after me – and I think that sentiment would resonate with leaders in healthcare across the country. At Valley, we are constantly trying to put in place protocols and care models that have already been deployed elsewhere, and it seems that if only our broader national “system” had a more solid foundation, we would be able to make collective progress more effectively.
VV: From your current vantage point, what seems to be an area of uncertainty related to your work that will be important to monitor going forward?
CP: I think many people right now are wondering about the political environment, and how this will impact healthcare on both the federal and state level. More concerning than whether any specific approach is right or wrong, there’s a strong tendency for conversations to become polarized. I’m fortunate to be working with a group of people that is aligned around the goal of improving care while being good stewards of limited resources and am interested in seeing how the broader political uncertainty impacts our work on the state level.
VV: What skills, experiences, or people/communities from UW helped prepare you to take on this new role?
CP: I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to work at UW Medicine Valley Medical Center. VMC is a mission driven organization dedicated to caring for its community, and I gained a breadth of experience driving value-based care initiatives and pursuing innovative partnerships across the care continuum. Because Valley is a smaller organization, I was able to work on projects from end to end: everything from engaging with vendors, going knee deep in claims data, to building programs and directly caring for patients.
UW VSSL has also been a wonderful catalyst to share our work at Valley with a larger community. As I mentioned before, in healthcare we are rarely solving problems in a vacuum, and often working on issues that others have faced or will face. I feel a sense of duty to share our work in order that others may benefit from lessons that we learned.
VV: Look forward 2 years. What do you hope to have accomplished (e.g., for patients, providers, payers, the state) through this new role?
CP: There’s a lot of inspiring work already going on in Washington State, and I can’t say that two years from now I’ll be able to take credit for progress that has been made. But if in two years we can align multiple stakeholders around strategic initiatives, improve the practice environment for our primary care providers, and increase access to the right care at the right time for patients across the state, I’ll count that as a win.