A California cardiologist is taking the helm at one of the nation’s largest medical groups.
Dr. Maria Ansari began her role Thursday as the first female CEO and executive director of Kaiser’s The Permanente Medical Group and as president and CEO of the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group. She has worked with The Permanente Medical Group for nearly two decades and serves on the boards for both entities.
Ansari was most recently physician-in-chief and chief of staff at Kaiser’s San Francisco Medical Center.
In her new role, Ansari oversees more than 11,000 physicians and 44,000 nurses and staff who serve 5.4 million patients in Northern California, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. She replaces Dr. Richard Isaacs, who is joining California Northstate University as dean of the College of Medicine and vice president of medical affairs.
Oakland, California-based Kaiser Permanente, an integrated nonprofit system, has been a leader in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and evolving care delivery models. The health system, which reported $1.2 billion in first-quarter net income, recently announced plans to build a nonprofit entity to buy health systems, starting with Danville, Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health, and create a national network.
“During the pandemic, there was just a lot of focus on what’s possible because we were at the epicenter of that crisis,” Ansari said. “There was just so much disruption and so much change that I felt compelled to step forward when there was a search for new leadership.”
In an interview, Ansari outlined her priorities for the new role.
Invest in the workforce
Healthcare was not immune to the Great Resignation wave, and Ansari plans to keep addressing issues highlighted during the pandemic, such as the need for more flexible work options.
One of her priorities is to ensure the medical groups implement team-based collaborative care, in which clinicians operate at the top of their license and focus on patients. Ansari said medical assistants, for example, can work alongside clinicians to handle the administrative work more efficiently.
Ansari said she plans to bring an empathetic leadership style, which she believes encourages employee retention and engagement.
Focus on the patient
Ansari noted industrywide disruption due to mergers, digital transformation and patients who want more say on how and where care is delivered.
Providers should increasingly focus on the aging population and how to keep patients healthy at home, Ansari said. Kaiser, for example, offers community-based home care for patients unable to travel to a facility.
“What’s old is new again,” she said. “I think the future of healthcare is in the home.”
Lower the cost of care
Kaiser is using innovation to offer lower-cost care options to patients—particularly for care outside of the hospital. The system is investing in remote patient monitoring and other care-at-home capabilities, plus digital support tools for clinicians and patients, Ansari said.
With innovation, Kaiser can revamp how it delivers care, she said. One example is its total joint home recovery program, which provides in-home rehabilitation support for patients after a hip or knee replacement. Patients are discharged the day of surgery, thanks to advances in surgical techniques, anesthesia and pain management. Previously, patients had to stay in the hospital for a few days after the operation.