By Arlene Dennistoun
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The Northwest Asian Weekly (NWAW) recently caught up with Dr. Zak Ramadan-Jradi, MD, MBA, who is the Executive Director and Vice President of Accountable Care at MultiCare Connected Care (MCC). “Call me Zak to make life easier for everyone,” said Ramadan-Jradi. He was affable and enthusiastic about the upcoming rollout of connecting various electronic medical record systems throughout MCC’s network members.
Although there is a single platform within MCC for providers to access medical records between various MultiCare clinics, “We’ve gone beyond that,” said Dr. Zak. “The healthcare information exchange allows us to connect with the independent community provider or any other network provider.
We’ve created a virtual electronic medical record that will connect all providers who are in the MCC network.”
Imagining the myriad intricacies of coding and programming that goes into creating and connecting virtual electronic medical records was a bit of a head spinner, but not for Dr. Zak. His goal is to get the single information source up and running by May or June 2017, and he doesn’t think that’s overly ambitious. “It’s about time we got this done — this technology to connect our providers. If you look at any other sector of the economy today, technology is a part of their DNA. But in healthcare, we continue to struggle with this.” There’s no reason to delay the technology any longer, and Dr. Zak is moving this project as rapidly as possible, while not impacting patient care. The next phase is connecting hospitals, assisted living care, and nursing home facilities.
When asked about linking an emergency room like Harborview to MCC, Dr. Zak explained that MCC has an excellent relationship with Harborview, but it’s complicated. Providers need to have contractual relationships with MCC in order to be part of the data exchange platform. “We reach out to providers who share our accountable care culture for quality and patient experience and who are willing to make a difference in healthcare in the state and there may be opportunities with Harborview in the future.” MCC has built a continuum of care from pediatricians, primary care doctors, hospitals, physical therapists, and emergency rooms.
Connecting non-network providers is a health industry problem. In the United States, the healthcare industry is “very fragmented.” One reason is it’s expensive to connect every single licensed provider in the state because security measures must be in place and providers need to implement a single interface.
With a single interface, a patient’s clinical medical records will allow providers to view lab results, imaging, allergies, prescriptions, etc.
Dr. Zak compares MCC’s rollout of connecting network providers like a “petri dish.” MCC will see how this health information exchange works before seeking ways to expand it. “We’ve built a chassis to accommodate a variety of providers — it’s huge enough to accommodate a semi-truck. But for now, we are using only part of the frame, like putting it on a pickup truck.”
Dr. Zak began his medical career as an internist, but he had “an innate tendency” towards business administration. He recalled working at Providence Hospital and looking in at a roomful of administers and leaders. He was so intrigued that he returned to school and earned his MBA at Seattle University. To be a leader in the healthcare industry, “you need to have business experience, which of course, they don’t teach you in medical school.” His motto back then while working towards his MBA was that if his pursuit of a leadership role in health care failed, he was well equipped to be an executive in a shoe factory. That’s how much he loved business administration.
Although Dr. Zak loves working in the administrative arm of health care, he still gets a bit wistful about the direct patient care he left behind. He misses it when he walks through a hospital ward. “But I believe my role in administration and working together with physicians in creating policies make it easier for them to practice medicine, I can do great work. And at the end of the day, instead of taking care of one patient, I’ve taken care of a whole population.”
Before joining MCC in 2014, Dr. Zak spent five years overseeing the transplant program for cancer patients at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Dr. Zak also spent over 10 years working with payors for health insurance companies, focusing on clinical performance management, which he characterized as building relationships with providers and others.
Dr. Zak has lived in Western Washington since 1991 with his wife and four children. He travels to attend his children’s soccer and polo games, “so, I’m a very busy man,” he laughed. He loves cross-country skiing, although he’s “too chicken” to try downhill skiing. He considered it a privilege to share information with the NWAW about his work and looks forward to sharing future updates.
Arlene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.