WHA Rural Physician Leaders Roundtable Holds Inaugural Meeting

31 members participate Feb. 19; discuss health care challenges facing rural communities and physicians who practice in rural settings

February 27, 2020

The WHA Rural Physician Leaders Roundtable held its first meeting Feb. 19. The roundtable purpose is to provide a forum for physician leaders in rural communities to connect, discuss common challenges, learn from each other, help one another become more effective physician leaders and to promote the vitality of rural health. The Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative is a key collaborator in this new endeavor.

The formation of this roundtable is an outgrowth of an effort in the first half of 2019 to better understand how WHA can increase value in the physician space to WHA member organizations. Dr. Mark Kaufman, who was then new in his WHA chief medical officer role, had over 35 conversations/meetings with WHA Physician Leaders Council members, CEOs from WHA member organizations and other health care leaders across Wisconsin. A recurrent theme from physician leaders in rural communities was a feeling of relative isolation from their peers and a desire to connect with colleagues facing similar challenges.

Roundtable members hail from diverse rural communities across Wisconsin. The most common roundtable member leadership roles are medical director and chief medical officer but also include chief of staff, VP of medical affairs and site leader. Based on a pre-meeting survey, the top four rural physician leader responsibilities include clinical quality, medical staff leadership, provider engagement and physician recruitment/retention.

Roundtable members discussed the most pressing health care issues facing their communities. The overarching theme was a lack of resources. Common issues include:
  • Patient access for behavioral health and specialty care
  • Clinical conditions including opioids/substance abuse, tobacco use, obesity and chronic disease management
  • Physician recruitment and retention
  • Cost of care to the patient; lack of insurance or being underinsured
Common physician leadership challenges include:
  • Specialty coverage for patients
  • Provider burnout
  • Adequate time and training for their leadership role
The Rural Physician Leaders Roundtable will meet quarterly in 2020. Physicians interested in joining the roundtable or who would like to learn more should contact Dr. Kaufman.

This story originally appeared in the February 27, 2020 edition of WHA Newsletter