Q&A with Ronald Waldridge, II, MD

KentuckyOne Health Physician Leadership Pathway

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LOUISVILLE MD-UPDATE Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Newton talked with KentuckyOne Health Medical Group’s Physician Executive Ronald Waldridge, II, MD, to learn more about KentuckyOne’s Physician Leadership Pathway program (PLP), an intensive, experiential, eight-month program designed to prepare and support physicians in leadership positions.

Ronald Waldridge, II, MD, is a board-certified family practice physician with KentuckyOne Health Primary Care Associates, where he has been caring for patients in Shelby County for more than 20 years. In addition to his patient care responsibilities, Waldridge serves as KentuckyOne Health Medical Group’s physician executive. In this role, he chairs the Medical Group Board in “dyad” partnership with KentuckyOne Health Medical Group President Charles Powell. He is also the chief medical officer for Jewish Hospital and Our Lady of Peace, both in Louisville. In his spare time, he serves as medical director for Shelby County Emergency Services and is the Shelby County coroner.

MD-UPDATE: What is the Physician Leadership Pathway?

We started the Physician Leadership Pathway as a means of educating physicians about business topics related to the work they are doing in medicine. Why is this important? They need to understand business because medicine is changing from the small, independent practitioner model to one where doctors are often now working in larger systems where the level of complexity has increased exponentially.

We started to look at the tools doctors would need, such as understanding the basics of finance, human resource management, and safety. Our goal is to increase awareness and then provide doctors with the tools they need to take a more active role in leadership. We want to make physicians as comfortable in the board room as they are in operating room, ICU, or their clinics.

■ When did the PLP program start?

We launched it about a year ago. We’ve graduated our first cohort of 21 doctors. We passed them through eight different modules, covering topics such as negotiations, human resource management, population health, leading the lean enterprise, finance, resolving conflict, communication, teamwork, and more. One of the first courses is “You’re Not Just a Doctor Anymore,” setting the tone for the need for them to expand their understanding of the world they’re working in.

Who is eligible for the program?

Any physician who is an employee of KentuckyOne is eligible for the program. Physicians are selected and nominated, and then we interview them to make sure they’re going to be committed toward the areas of physician leadership and management. We’re looking for inspired leaders.

Was the program uniquely created for KentuckyOne and who teaches the courses?

The program was uniquely created for KentuckyOne Health in partnership with the American Association for Physician Leadership® (AAPL). The courses are taught by instructors from the AAPL.

■ What are the next steps?

We are starting phase two. We did eight courses last year and are going to do the same eight courses this year. Then we’re going to add another four courses on top of those, such as fundamentals of health law and advanced contract negotiations. The expectation is for participants to begin to use these tools in their own environment. So, for example, they will work closely with presidents and finance people when it comes to budgeting next year.

■ With the transition to health system employment models, one physician concern has been maintaining a voice in decision-making and leadership. Is this one of the ways KentuckyOne addresses that concern?

Absolutely. We need to make sure physicians not only have the vocabulary but they have the experience and the mindset needed to work in the board room and to be effective contributors to what’s going on in their environment. Without those bridging tools, we’re going to be at odds with the administration more than we’re going to find common ground. So, the focus of this program is to collapse that distance and make sure that physicians are working side by side with the administrative teams on the only thing that’s important here – and that’s the care of the patient.

■ What measures of success have you seen so far?

In the areas of quality and safety, we’ve seen dramatic improvements. We’ve seen significant increases in our physician satisfaction scores. Also, we’ve seen the tenor of the conversations is beginning to change. Physicians are finding their own voices now, specifically in our KentuckyOne Medical Group. There’s much more sharing between physicians and their non-clinical colleagues.

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