HER Health

Colleen Mitchell set to re­tire af­ter nearly two decades at the helm of HealthS­tar Physi­cians

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents -

HealthS­tar Physi­cians of Hot Springs is an in­de­pen­dent health­care prac­tice man­age­ment com­pany serv­ing the Hot Springs, Foun­tain Lake, Glen­wood and Mena ar­eas in Arkansas. Colleen Mitchell has been the CEO of HealthS­tar for al­most 17 years and said the com­pany has made “huge strides” since its in­cep­tion in 2000. Mitchell is set to re­tire in De­cem­ber af­ter nearly 40 years in the health­care in­dus­try.

What ex­actly does HealthS­tar Physi­cians of Hot Springs do?

Colleen Mitchell: HealthS­tar Physi­cians of Hot Springs is a physi­cian group. They’re to­tally in­de­pen­dent, not owned by a hos­pi­tal or in­sur­ance com­pany or any­thing. We’re one of the largest in­de­pen­dent groups in this area. Cur­rently, we have 14 doc­tors and 23 APNs (ad­vanced prac­tice nurses). We have six fam­ily prac­tice clin­ics, a well­ness clinic, two pe­di­atric, two walk-in clin­ics that of­fer ex­tended hours, a med spa, and, in Novem­ber, we’ll have our imag­ing cen­ter open for our pa­tients, which will in­clude MRI, CT and ul­tra­sound.

We also have a house call clinic, which is an APN and an LPN (li­censed prac­ti­cal nurse) who ac­tu­ally go out to the cus­tomer’s home and per­form a provider visit. We try to get out to see ev­ery pa­tient who’s been dis­charged to make sure that they un­der­stood their dis­charge in­struc­tions, and they picked up their meds and are not hav­ing any kind of prob­lems af­ter they were dis­charged. It’s just so they don’t get read­mit­ted. This has made a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in our read­mits to the hos­pi­tal; it’s re­duced it by about 70 per­cent.

Then we have over 200 who are home­bound pa­tients, who, for what­ever rea­son, they’re too frail. Some of them have de­men­tia.Some of them don’t have trans­porta­tion, and they have sev­eral chronic prob­lems, and we go out to see them. We can give them flu shots, pneu­mo­nia shots, do a biopsy, or­der mo­bile X-ray, draw labs—we can lit­er­ally do any­thing in a house that you can do in a clinic.

We’ve re­ally grown tremen­dously in the last few years. We’re open­ing a phys­i­cal ther­apy clinic Oct. 1. We of­fer speech ther­apy. We have a li­censed ther­a­pist on staff who does med­i­ca­tion man­age­ment for our pa­tients. We have women’s ser­vices. We do self-man­age­ment classes.

Go­ing back 16, al­most 17 years ago, how did you get into this po­si­tion?

CM: I worked for a lo­cal der­ma­tol­o­gist/plas­tic sur­geon in town, and I had worked for him for 19 years. We opened a re­search depart­ment while I worked for him. I guess it was then that I re­al­ized my pas­sion for medicine, be­cause I was able to be di­rectly in­volved with pa­tients and see the change that new med­i­ca­tions com­ing down the pipe­line made, whether they were go­ing to work or not be ef­fec­tive, and the dif­fer­ence it made in peo­ple’s lives. I loved my job there; he opened a lot of doors for me and gave me op­por­tu­ni­ties that I would not have had else­where. But, af­ter 19 years, you kind of want a change, an­other ad­ven­ture be­fore you hang it up, so to speak. I was ap­proached by the med­i­cal

di­rec­tor of HealthS­tar Physi­cians. I had met him years prior when he was ac­tu­ally in his res­i­dency with the physi­cian that I was work­ing for. He ap­proached me and asked me if I would come out and meet his group. They had a job of­fer for me, and he just wanted me to con­sider it. So I did, and I thought, ‘Well, the time is prob­a­bly right for me to make a change.’

I love it. I loved what I did there. They were won­der­ful to me, and this group has been as well. It’s amaz­ing to be able to work along­side these physi­cians and grow with them.

What keeps you get­ting up and go­ing to work each day?

CM: I love the staff. All of the clin­ics, we have over 200 em­ploy­ees, but we’re all like fam­ily. I want ev­ery­one to be very ap­proach­able; my door is al­ways open. If you’re hav­ing a prob­lem in a clinic or you don’t know where to turn and you just feel like you’re at a dead end, come in and we’ll sit down and chat about it. I’m a huge, huge pa­tient ad­vo­cate. I want more than any­thing to take care of those pa­tients. I strive to make ev­ery­one in all of our clin­ics to put the pa­tients first. All of our clin­ics, we’re mak­ing them pa­tient-cen­tered med­i­cal homes. That’s ex­actly what that model is de­signed for, putting the pa­tient first and mak­ing them a part of their health­care, let­ting them have de­ci­sion-mak­ing and get­ting them en­gaged in what­ever you’re do­ing with them. You give them op­tions, you dis­cuss it and you let them make the choice. We hold them ac­count­able for that, too, be­cause the way medicine has moved out now, it’s changed so much in the past 12 years. Doc­tors are graded on qual­ity, not quan­tity, and not the ser­vices they de­liver. They’re graded on the out­come of what they’re de­liv­er­ing. So it’s im­por­tant that your pa­tient does un­der­stand that and will fol­low through with what you’ve dis­cussed and what they’ve com­mit­ted to, be­cause it’s a re­flec­tion on their physi­cian and on their health, and they’re held ac­count­able for it and paid ac­cord­ingly.

What are some of the big­gest chal­lenges you’ve faced?

CM: Grow­ing pains. Just grow­ing so quickly— we have to prac­tice to­tally dif­fer­ent from what we did 10 years ago. Used to be, you had to see a cer­tain num­ber of pa­tients to pay the bills, and it’s not that way now; it’s all about the qual­ity and the out­come of the health that you’re de­liv­er­ing, and so get­ting that into ev­ery­one’s mind, mak­ing them un­der­stand.

We have care co­or­di­na­tors in all of our clin­ics now, so if you’re a pa­tient, there are three key peo­ple that you know. That’s your physi­cian, your nurse and your care co­or­di­na­tor. So, if you call, in­stead of be­ing shifted around ev­ery­where and won­der­ing if any­one’s go­ing to get back to you, you’re given to your care co­or­di­na­tor first, and she’s go­ing to make sure that your nurse or doc­tor or nurse prac­ti­tioner is go­ing to get the mes­sage, and some­one’s go­ing to get back to you.

What do you plan to do af­ter you re­tire?

CM: We have a re­search depart­ment here that I helped open. I’m go­ing to keep a small pres­ence in the re­search just be­cause you don’t want to just quit ev­ery­thing, but it won’t be full-time by any means. I have a lot of things on my bucket list that I want to do. I want to do a lot of trav­el­ing; there are seven states that I haven’t been to. I want to do a lot of vol­un­teer work, whether it’s at the school or a soup kitchen. I want to give back to the com­mu­nity be­cause I feel like they’ve given so much to me.

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