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Q&A: Blue Shield of California’s new Senior Vice President Mimi Kokoska, M.D., reflects on nonprofit health plan’s 2017 ACO Summit

Mimi Kokoska, M.D., MHCM, FACS, CPE, recently joined Blue Shield of California as senior vice president of Strategic Partnerships & Innovation. She leads the nonprofit health plan’s strategic partnerships, accountable care organization (ACO) strategy and innovation across the Health Care Quality and Affordability (HCQA) division. She is focused on strengthening Blue Shield’s relationships with physicians, clinicians and other stakeholders to help us transform the care we deliver to our members. Mimi shares her first impressions of Blue Shield, her perspectives on Blue Shield’s recently held ACO Provider Summit and her goals in 2018.

After your first month at Blue Shield, what are your initial impressions and goals?

I have been welcomed warmly by my colleagues both at Blue Shield and our ACO providers. It’s clear that stakeholders – both internally and externally – are engaged and willing to do what it takes to achieve our goals of delivering health care that is worthy of our family and friends and sustainably affordable. All of us recognize the need to continuously improve the quality of the health care we provide.

You recently hosted the Blue Shield of California ACO Provider Summit. What did you think?

The 5th annual ACO Provider Summit was a one-day event, where we brought together senior leaders and clinicians from our medical groups, hospitals, employers and Blue Shield statewide to explore shared strategic goals and best practices. This year we convened in San Diego. The Summit agenda was packed with leadership keynotes, sharing of best practices and panel discussions with our ACO providers.

Our President & CEO Paul Markovich opened the day with his inspirational message about the success of our ACO program since its inception seven years ago. He introduced Jeff Bailet, M.D., executive vice president of HCQA, who joined Blue Shield in January. This was Jeff’s first ACO Summit and he spoke on our efforts to improve quality ratings and to help transform specialty care practices.

Dr. Timothy Ferris, chairman & CEO at Massachusetts General Physicians Organization (MGPO), was a crowd pleaser as our keynote speaker, highlighting his experience with ACOs and population health management along with MGPO’s successes and challenges.

We also enjoyed hearing best practice presentations from two of our ACO leaders – Dr. Anil Keswani, chief medical officer of Scripps Health Plans & ACOs, and Sylvia Dochterman, vice president of Torrance Memorial Integrated Physicians.

Following that, Salina Wong, PharmD, director of Blue Shield of California’s Clinical Pharmacy Programs, led an engaging drug price transparency software live demonstration and a panel discussion surrounding medication reconciliation best practices.

The final presentation of the day was a sales and marketing growth update by our Vice President and General Manager of Premier Accounts Diana Gibson Pace. She also led a panel discussion featuring leaders from three of our top employer groups. They shared what matters most to them in selecting health plans for their employees and why they’ve chosen Blue Shield.

I was impressed by the collaborative spirit of everyone at the event and the turnout of so many healthcare leaders across the state. There was a sense of commitment toward transformation of health care, which will only be achieved through our joint efforts. I was encouraged to see this collaboration happening during the networking and discussion portions of the day.

How does this event help to further Blue Shield’s progress to its goals?

While we at Blue Shield spend a great deal of time meeting with our ACO providers (medical groups, hospitals, employers, etc.), it’s rare that they have the opportunity to meet with each other. By bringing everyone together in person to hear and share best practices, our ACO partners are better able to see how other industry leaders are finding success and learning through challenges. The more they can collaborate, the more cohesive our ACO program will become, which benefits everyone.

I’ve learned that one of Blue Shield’s strengths is the feeling of community among our ACO providers. The ACO Summit is a key vehicle to building that community and being able to witness this firsthand was impressive.

What can we expect to see in the next year under your leadership?

I plan to spend the next several months meeting the leadership teams of all our ACOs. It is important for me to learn about the nuances of care delivery in the state of California and I’d like to hear first-hand the challenges facing these groups and the ideas they may have that we can partner on to successfully achieve our collective goals. This will be my top priority through the remainder of 2017 and into 2018. My goal is to work with our ACO stakeholders to transform care and improve value to our members, providers, employers and communities.