New URAC President and CEO Calls for Embrace of Accreditation to Improve Healthcare Outcomes and Combat Rising Costs

| URAC Staff
Stethoscope on keyboard while person writes on paper in background

Shawn Griffin, M.D., who became URAC’s president and CEO on February 6, 2019, and the first physician in URAC’s history to fill this role, offers his perspectives on telehealth, healthcare informatics, and the value of accreditation as an important market validator and differentiator.

Prior to URAC, Dr. Griffin was vice president for clinical performance improvement and applied analytics at Premier, Inc., where he contributed to the development of next-generation analytics combining quality, cost, pharmacy and claims data. Previously, he was the chief quality and informatics officer for the Memorial Hermann Physician Network in Houston, one of the largest and most successful ACOs in the country, where he directed the quality measurement and data collection programs.

The URAC Report: Why did you take this position at URAC? 

Dr. Griffin: URAC is a unique organization with almost 30 years of serving as an independent advocate for the safety and quality we all want for ourselves and our loved ones when we need healthcare. I see this as an opportunity to bring my healthcare and technology background and experiences to an already outstanding team and find ways we can expand our work to serve more people and providers.

The URAC Report: What are your top priorities for 2019?

Dr. Griffin: I think we are in a time of intense disruption in healthcare. More care is being delivered using technology and from new groups, so I think URAC should continue to ensure safety and quality for all those who receive care. We need to be clear on what is safety and quality in healthcare, and not just let organizations "check the box" on accreditation, but really deliver results that matter.

The URAC Report: What challenges/obstacles does URAC face over the next five years?

Dr. Griffin: I think the challenges we face are not unique - we will need to show the value we provide to the organizations we measure and the consumers they serve. We need to continue to be a trusted organization that measures and promotes the outcomes in healthcare that matter to consumers, not just in the US, but the entire world. I want the gold star of URAC to be trusted throughout the industry to mean that this organization delivers the results that matter to people.

The URAC Report: What opportunities do you see for doing things differently at URAC?

Dr. Griffin: I want to see how I can help with current and new product development, and find opportunities to connect to the needs of healthcare consumers across the country.  I see opportunities in non-traditional care methods such as telehealth and addressing areas of heightened concern such as addiction treatment and provider burnout.

The URAC Report: Speaking of telehealth, what’s your perspective on the rapid growth of its adoption?

Dr. Griffin: People want the convenience, and they're looking for alternatives to spending the morning or afternoon in the doctor's office waiting for a visit. They expect greater convenience and greater savings with other methods of receiving care these days. It's very tough for a person to justify in their own mind a $200 office visit to get a refill on a blood pressure medication that they've been on for two years. So, what is routine care? What is care that is safely delivered through telehealth? And what is care that's not safely delivered? Consumers want greater convenience, but they are also expecting safety. Accreditation standards offer an opportunity to look at what’s being done – to be sure that we’re doing things in a safe manner, and that it’s high quality and it’s reliable and it’s worth it to the consumers.

The URAC Report: We’ve been seeing a plethora of mergers and acquisitions in this industry. How do you see these trends changing the healthcare landscape in terms of telehealth?

Dr. Griffin: Mergers and acquisitions increase your physical presence, and they're often talked about as an opportunity for savings, but sometimes they're simply an opportunity to control more market share. There's interesting research about how mergers and acquisitions sometimes lower the cost, but sometimes don't.

Since cost is becoming more and more transparent and it's being felt more directly by consumers, as mergers and acquisitions grow, there's times where organizations get into a dominant position within the market without offering an improved value for consumers. There are times where the innovator and the upstart in a market has a chance to gain a foot hold because they innovate in a way that serves consumers better. Understanding where that balance is between innovation, and safety and quality, and how it is delivered to consumers is one of the important challenges for the next few years.

The URAC Report: You have an extensive background in informatics. What kind of impact do you think informatics will have on data collection and predictive analysis going forward?

Dr. Griffin: Very often we overestimate the technical hurdles that must be overcome. Technical hurdles have gotten blamed for a lot of things over the past decade, and when I first became a chief medical information officer, it wasn't because I loved electronic medical records systems; it was because I saw them as a path to improving quality and safety and helping to lower costs. There's a very interesting intersection between technology increasing physician and provider burnout and consumer expectations for quality and cost savings. I have a son who is in medical school right now, and when I look today at how quality is being delivered, and how it has changed over the 30 years since I was going to school, it's just remarkable to me that medicine is one of the few industries where the addition of technology has seemed to increase the burden on providers and created false barriers to adoption as opposed to empowering people at a lower cost and greater convenience.  

The URAC Report: You touched on the value of accreditation a moment ago. As you know, getting accreditation is not easy, and it shouldn't be easy. Why is it worth doing?

Dr. Griffin: It’s a critical way to earn patient trust. I have an issue of Consumer Reports on my desk right now that came out in January, and the cover story is "Too Many Tests," and it's talking about what excessive screenings cost us in the healthcare system in time and money. Patients don’t know when to say no without risking their health. Patients don't know who to trust and they don't know who is looking out for them. When they see that an organization has been examined in a meaningful way, and not just because some banner headline says it’s one of the greatest hospitals in the world according to some survey, but that it has demonstrated its quality to an independent healthcare accreditor, patients will see it as an organization that is actually safe and that delivers quality healthcare. I think that's the meaning and value of accreditation.

URAC and all the other accrediting organizations have to be able to explain the value that they bring to the process. And I want the gold star of URAC to mean that consumers can trust us and can trust the organizations we accredit.

The URAC Report: Taking a closer look at URAC, what do you see as its direction in the next few years? Do you envision it going international and moving beyond US markets?

Dr. Griffin: Well, when you look at healthcare across the country, I think that there are some areas where the United States is clearly the leader, and if there are opportunities to bring standards and quality to the international market, I think it's an opportunity that URAC should explore. We will offer new programs domestically. As the new guy joining the team, I'm going to ask a lot of questions, and I'm going to talk to the people who are out there doing the accreditations and find what is meaningful.

The URAC Report: You sound excited about this new opportunity.

Dr. Griffin: I am. URAC is an organization with a strong history, with a strong team, and I think that there are opportunities and some unique perspectives that I bring to the table because of being a physician, being a technology person, along with having a background in population health. I've worked in a rural clinic where it's two exam rooms and you're the only provider in town, and I've worked in the Texas Medical Center, arguably one of the most complicated and competitive environments in medicine. America is made up of a rich mix of locations, and URAC has an opportunity to help people in all those environments to know, to trust, and to understand what matters in delivering healthcare. The URAC team can help the innovators and the leaders to better define and deliver quality healthcare that truly serves consumers, and maybe helps to address some of the excessive costs and waste that's holding back even better performance.

It’s an exciting time.

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