MPCA discusses their health equity and information technology initiatives for 2022

Heading into 2022, the Michigan Primary Care Association (MPCA) plans to focus on addressing health equity concerns and implementing information technology (IT) services in clinics that allow for “holistic” care and more time spent with patients, says new MPCA CEO Phillip Bergquist. 

 

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Bergquist became the new MPCA CEO in early November and was previously the chief operating officer (COO). He plans to approach the new position using a “strategic planning” lens and will focus on implementing actual actions to see meaningful outcomes, similarly to how he approached his work as COO.

“I am really focused on the strategic plan as a true operational framework, [which is] going beyond the big goals and the big statements to [answer], ‘What do we really do?’”

Bergquist’s biggest priority revolves around creating meaningful outcomes around health equity and reducing health disparities. In October, MPCA adopted a new strategic plan with diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront. 

Throughout 2021, MPCA has worked to build up addressing equity at the ground level by creating structures and new visions around equity. This included adding a director of health equity and social justice—a position held by Debbie Edokpolo—and creating a committee with health center CEOs around health equity.

“One of the places that we started [was] making sure that we have the structures, the governance, the strategic goals, the mission vision, and all of the above covered, most importantly, from a health equity lens.”

Bergquist said the foundation set by MPCA led—and will continue to lead—to greater action furthering health equity within the organization and throughout primary care in the state.

From this foundation, MPCA is focusing on maternal health disparities—an area in which Bergquist said disparities are particularly prominent. This prominence allows for MPCA to better identify solutions for the problem. 

“We know there is disparity there that we can quantify and attack and so we are trying to—starting with maternal health outcomes—bring together a group of people to really get to patients.”

MPCA recently started a program that conducts “guiding sessions” or interviews of new mothers and pregnant people to learn about disparities anecdotally. MPCA hopes to learn more about the diverse perspectives of mothers in Michigan to best improve outcomes that will have meaningful impacts. 

Next, MPCA plans to address disparities in the care of chronic conditions, especially around diabetes and hypertension. 

Rob Pazdan, chief information officer with MPCA, emphasized the importance of IT in the future work of addressing health equity concerns. Allowing providers to worry more about their patients and less about their technology leads to greater outcomes and more time with patients. 

VirtuALLY—a new IT service used by MPCA members—recently launched in October aiming to save costs and create a more efficient IT system for primary care clinicians. 

It offers inclusive service lines, hands-on training into the IT system, and support for electronic health records (EHR). The service also provides a fully assisted remote monitoring and management (RMM) system, which will help conduct regular IT management for clinicians so they can focus on their patients. 

“Health centers—like everybody else—are having problems with staffing. They are having to deal with not just what is in front of them, but also having to do the long-term [IT] things that everyone should be doing. That is audits and keeping an eye on the ongoing health of your systems and information technology. Those are the things that we feel we can really help a modern health center and let that health center focus on what they need to focus on and have us come in and augment that capability.”