Monday, October 3, 2011

At ACPE, Health Care Entrepreneur Shares Secrets for Getting Engaged, Improving Care

Ask Don McDaniel what a physician should do to be successful in today’s uncertain health care environment, and he’s got an answer at the ready.

“Get an MBA,” he said.

McDaniel is the CEO of Sage Growth Partners, a health care strategy and technology firm. While he’s a firm believer in the need for physicians to be trained in the business side of medicine, he said the most important thing is to become more engaged.

“Regardless of what your view is, you have to be educated on these issues,” said McDaniel, who will be one of four speakers at the Implementers Panel at the 2011 ACPE Fall Institute in Scottsdale, Ariz. “If you’re at the table but you can’t articulate a position, that’s a problem.”

The Implementers Panel is scheduled for 4:45 p.m. on Monday, November 7. Participants will hear from four entrepreneurs who are forging new paths in health care. The session is free for all Fall Institute attendees.

There are some quick and easy ways to get involved beyond getting an advanced degree, McDaniel said. Start writing and follow blogs. Go to the local university and volunteer to help with the entrepreneur program. Start hanging around with innovators — and don’t be surprised if they’re in their 20s.

McDaniel also suggests looking for a new job, even if you have no interest in leaving your current position.

“Go to the search firms’ web sites and look in the magazines of your specialty societies. Check out the ads,” he said. “You’ll see what they’re really looking for right now in health care.”

McDaniel took an unusual path to his current position. He dreamed of being an entrepreneur while an undergrad at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and took a job after graduation at a bank. It wasn’t a good fit. So when a friend’s father, a physician, told McDaniel he suspected his staff of stealing from him, McDaniel offered to set up a billing system for him. It later turned into a billing company, and McDaniel has been fascinated by health care ever since.

Through the years, he has held a number of positions, including Vice President, Business Strategy for Bon Secours Baltimore Health System and Vice President, Managed Care Systems for Liberty Medical Center.

He founded Sage Growth Partners in 2005. The company does traditional consulting as well as assists in the development of products, deal negotiation and the production of information such as white papers and webinars. In addition, the company does a lot of work in information technology, including EHR implementation.

McDaniel said health care is still waiting for its "Industrial Revolution," the circumstances that will force it to act more like other businesses. He said people still put up with treatment from health care providers that would be unacceptable elsewhere.

"We haven't really gone through that forced march to lower prices," he said. "We don't have many of the competitive market attributes you would expect."

While there’s still a lot of frustration involved in being in the health care business, McDaniel said he feels true change is coming. No matter what happens with federal health care reform, simply talking about the issue is forcing people to pay attention. Also, he believes the attention to budget reductions and ending deficit spending is going to finally bleed over into health care.

“People are waking up to the notion that we can’t continue the status quo,” McDaniel said. “We have to change things.”

Hear Don McDaniel in person at the ACPE Fall Institute. Register today: Some classes are sold out and others are filling fast.

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