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Managed Healthcare Executive's October issue headlines 10 healthcare leaders in its fourth annual "10 Emerging Industry Leaders" feature. MHE spotlights each leader individually with a video interview to accompany the Q&A between MHE and the emerging leader.
Sriraman Srinivasan, M.D., MBA, chief medical officer, Advanced ICU Care, Bethesda, Maryland
I started my life in India and moved to Toronto at the age of 6. I grew up idolizing Wayne Gretzky and played a lot of ice hockey. In fact, as young as age 12, I organized a yearly hockey pool in which my friends and I drafted NHL players, and I served as league commissioner. In those days without the internet, I updated everyone’s standings weekly after going through the box scores in the Sunday newspaper. That taught me to be consistent and reliable and to double-check my work, because people counted on me.
After undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, it was on to St. George’s University in Grenada for my medical studies; Georgetown University for my medical residency; and, finally, a fellowship in critical care at George Washington University.
Most of my leadership highlights come from volunteering to take on roles that others did not want. That led me to opportunities that propelled my career by serving first where help was needed.
Why did you choose your profession?
I was always fascinated by the ability that a doctor had to save someone’s life through direct and purposeful action. This feeling was affirmed when I witnessed a student die of cardiac arrest in the gym I worked at in my 20s. Naturally, I chose critical care as my area of interest because it gave me exposure to caring for the sickest of the sick.
What has been your biggest learning experience in the industry? What did it teach you?
Listen, listen, listen. The client will tell you what they want or need. Be flexible, and tailor solutions to their individual needs. We all want a system-based approach, but one size does not fit all. In telemedicine, we have to work hard to build rapport with local bedside staff to earn their trust so that we can co-manage patients. We all have good intentions, but it takes time to build those relationships, which starts with listening.
How has COVID-19 affected your responsibilities and how your organization operates? How might your job and your organization change because of the pandemic?
We cared for critically ill patients via telemedicine long before COVID-19, but we still made several adjustments. We did disaster planning for staffing needs and the possibility of reduced bedside staff. We rapidly deployed surge capacity at client hospitals to care for additional patients. We also stayed abreast of best practices in medical management that we shared with our partners. Our company already operated in a virtual environment, so there wasn’t an interruption in services.
How has the current discussion of racism and healthcare inequity affected you, your outlook and your organization? What has been the short-term response, and what do you envision happening over the longer term to your organization and American healthcare?
This is a very important discussion at a very important time in our history. Our organization revolves around the remote provision of healthcare services to a diverse set of communities via technology. Because we don’t engage with health insurance, we don’t ever turn away a patient, and we provide 24/7 year-round access to an ICU doctor. We care for everyone equitably, regardless of creed or color. Our staff comes from a diverse background across the country in seven domestic operations centers and two international ones. We focus squarely on one’s abilities and interest in telemedicine in our hiring practices.
What other kinds of changes do you expect to see in healthcare in the next five to 10 years?
The door for telemedicine has been opened, and it is something that patients have longed for. Remote provision of care is here to stay, but it has a steep learning curve. Many doctors come to us as 20-year veterans of in-person care and need to learn a lot about technology, situational awareness and management principles before caring for patients remotely. Physicians will need to become better coaches and empower not only patients but also the allied health professionals that they share the healthcare space with.
What have you enjoyed about social distancing and extra stay-at-home time during the past few months?
Quite honestly, I finally learned what my kids were doing in school since I had to start doing some home schooling. It’s been great to be more involved and, hopefully, I made a positive impression on them for the future.