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Blue Shield of California CEO Paul Markovich at California Medical Association: Leading Through the Pandemic, Lessons Learned and Future Goals in Healthcare

Simplify, digitize, and automate. These are the keys to transforming the healthcare system and being ready for the next public health crisis, Blue Shield of California President and CEO Paul Markovich said at last week’s California Medical Association’s Group Advocacy Symposium in Pasadena, Calif.

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Paul Markovich

Markovich led a conversation with physician leaders around the state about the many important lessons learned, pivotal changes needed, new strategies, and goals for the healthcare system following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The discussion opened with Markovich sharing his own recent experience where he suffered a “weekend warrior” injury and required an MRI for a proper diagnosis. He received top-notch care but noted that the experience was extremely fractured – as he found himself going back and forth to different orthopedists, physical therapists, and a host of different doctors, all of whom were sending records via a fax machine. He was given a CD-ROM.

“Even though there’s more internet connectivity between electronic medical records, a lot of the correspondence that happens between, for example physicians’ offices and health plans, is through this outdated mechanism,” Markovich said. “It makes for an anecdotal story when you happen to be in my position, but it’s actually life and death when you’re in a pandemic.”

He noted that the approach to COVID-19 was largely handled on providers’ electronic medical records systems and shared through Excel spreadsheets, which are not effective nor expedient especially during a fast-moving pandemic.

This is where Blue Shield of California comes in, Markovich explained, adding that the nonprofit health plan’s vision is to create a healthcare system that’s “worthy of our family and friends and sustainably affordable.” In order to do that, the system must be rethought and reinvented.

First on the list of changes Markovich noted was that health care is far too complicated and labor intensive and is not user-friendly in the slightest.

“We need to dramatically simplify it. We need to digitize it,” he said.

Markovich noted that there are several areas within the healthcare system that can be automated in order to expedite the entire experience for patients and providers, notably prior authorization.

Along with that focus, Markovich emphasized Blue Shield’s Primary Care Reimagined initiative. This program lays out Blue Shield’s goal to work with physicians to provide members more personalized form of care that is efficient and delivered in a value-based way. That plan includes allowing physicians to focus on care, rather than administrative tasks.

“Why is it that we’re making physicians, who have been trained to take care of patients and are passionate about taking care of patients, do data entries and wrestle with electronic records constantly?” Markovich asked. “That makes no sense whatsoever.”

Overall, he believes the pandemic managed to bring a myriad of issues that have long plagued the healthcare industry into a much brighter light.

“A lot of good people want to do the right thing, but the system pushes them to a different place,'' Markovich said to his physician audience. “Our job is to work with you to create a good system – a system in which you can thrive.”