Dr. Parodi on harnessing innovation to improve health care access, physician wellness


Improving health care access, supporting physician wellness, and leading effectively are challenges on the minds of most physician leaders in a post-pandemic world. In a recent Becker’s Healthcare Podcast, Stephen Parodi, MD, associate executive director for The Permanente Medical Group, discussed ways to harness health care innovation, innovative technologies, and courageous physician leadership to address these challenges.  

“Top of mind for me is health care access and finding the right combination between what we offer virtually, whether that’s secure message or email, telephone, video or even AI-assisted triage,” said Dr. Parodi, who also serves as executive vice president at The Permanente Federation. “During the pandemic we learned that patients want all these types of visits, but they want them when they work, they want them when the first touch solves that problem.” 

While virtual care has its virtues, Dr. Parodi added, “it is not enough. One of the real questions on the table for 2024 is how to provide timely, in-person care as well, especially when the patient has complex needs and demands.” 

Related health care innovation story: Permanente Federation co-CEOs talk health care innovation, quality, and physician leadership

Addressing burnout is critical

At the same time, Dr. Parodi said it is critical that health care leaders address another major and persistent concern: reducing physician burnout 

“We know that clinicians of all stripes and all disciplines are suffering from this,” Dr. Parodi said. “It’s really critical that organizations assess the status of clinicians, make sure that there’s leadership attention to the issue, and create a practice environment that’s more efficient, emphasizes teamwork, allows for additional options for fulfillment, whether that’s through health care innovation or research, while also making sure that the work flows [efficiently]. We need to make sure that the introduction of AI is different from the introduction of the electronic medical record where it makes clinicians better, not less efficient.” 

 Related health care innovation story: Dr. Parodi on the pros and cons of AI in health care 

AI is accelerating health care innovation and delivering value

Artificial intelligence is already accelerating health care innovation that delivers value by supporting patient needs for timely care as well as physician wellness. 

For example, AI monitoring for certain patient populations helps to identify patients that may have a social or clinician need and escalate it to the appropriate team member for resolution, versus alerting all team members.  

And ambient listening AI is proving its value in supporting physician wellness. “Virtual scribing is actually saving primary care physicians 1 to 2 hours a day,” Dr. Parodi said.  

During this time of accelerating change and health care transformation, Dr. Parodi said effective leaders will need to be nimble. 

“We have to embrace change and communicate with a note of optimism that this change is something that we as clinicians and as health care leaders can actually have a say in and manage,” he said. “We also have to be courageous, be willing to try something new, and even willing to fail at something fast. Those are going to be key to physician leadership over the next 2 to 3 years.”  

Note: To listen or download the podcast, visit Becker’s Hospital Review.