Archive for Leadership

America’s ‘Other’ Health Emergency Needs Attention Too

America’s ‘Other’ Health Emergency Needs Attention Too

Drug overdose deaths could surpass 100,000 in the U.S. for the first time ever

By John Meigs, Jr., MD

For the past 12 months, the nation’s medical community correctly and understandably focused nearly all its attention on the COVID-19 pandemic.  Now with millions being vaccinated, we are hopefully about to turn the corner and can begin returning our focus to a different health crisis that never went away and actually got worse during COVID.

That crisis is the drug overdose crisis, the epidemic inside the pandemic.

Research shows that more than 13 percent of American adults started or increased substance use to cope with stress related to COVID-19.  Unfortunately, many of the socially isolating steps that were necessary to combat COVID-19 are the same conditions where substance abuse flourishes.  

In Alabama, Jefferson County alone saw drug overdose deaths increase by 25 percent in 2020 to their highest level ever.  This mirrors national data, with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reporting the highest number of fatal overdoses ever recorded in the U.S. in a single year in the 12-month period ending in May 2020.  It’s likely the U.S. will surpass 100,000 drug overdose deaths this year for the first time ever.

Fortunately, Alabama is working with the CDC and other states to take statistics like these and turn them into action that ultimately reduces overdose deaths.

Through the Overdose Data to Action program, Alabama is improving its collection of comprehensive and timely information on non-fatal and fatal overdoses.  This helps the state to monitor and understand emerging trends, then drive effective prevention and response solutions tailored to the needs of individuals and communities.

For example, before becoming part of the Overdose Data to Action initiative, Jefferson County received data on overdoses only once a year.  Now it has access to that important information within 24 hours.  With that data in hand, the Jefferson County Department of Health identifies overdose hotspots and mobilizes rapid response teams with physicians, addiction specialists and peer counselors to target recovery and prevention resources to those neighborhoods being hit hardest by drug overdoses.  Plans to replicate this model for other Alabama counties are being developed.

Timely, evidence-based information and collaboration are essential for success in preventing overdose deaths.  First responders, mental health providers, community organizations, public health leaders, medical personnel and others all bring resources and expertise to this effort.

Physicians in Alabama and across America are certainly part of this effort.  We’ve fought to pass legislation to reduce prescription drug abuse and diversion.  Thousands have accessed continuing medical education and other intensive courses on substance use disorders.  In fact, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama was one of the first in the nation to offer an opioid prescribing education course.  Since 2009, we have reached more than 5,000 prescribers with information on the safe prescribing of opioids.  Since 2018, the number of times health care professionals in Alabama have accessed the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program has increased by more than 20 percent, and Alabama physicians have reduced their prescriptions of opioids by more than 34 percent since 2014.  

All these collaborative efforts and more are needed as our nation’s drug overdose crisis evolves into an even more complicated and dangerous epidemic, due primarily to the pervasiveness of fentanyl.

Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have steadily declined, but overdose deaths related to illicitly manufactured fentanyl and related fentanyl analogs increased nationwide by more than 500 percent between 2015 and 2019, according to the CDC.

Fentanyl, a painkiller that is 100 times more powerful than morphine, is the number one cause of overdose deaths in the United States today.  So powerful and lethal is fentanyl that if you were to swallow, inhale or absorb just two milligrams of it through your skin, you would die.  To appreciate just how small two milligrams is, consider that the packet of sweetener you’ll find on most restaurant tables is about 1,000 milligrams.

When police in Brookwood recently seized two pounds of fentanyl during a traffic stop, the former U.S. attorney who said it was enough to kill nearly every resident of Jefferson County was not exaggerating.

For years, fentanyl has been mixed with illegal drugs like heroin.  Today, however, we are seeing more instances where fentanyl is pressed into counterfeit pills to resemble prescription opioids.  Such was the case in Muscle Shoals last year where police found pills that were being sold by a drug dealer as Oxycodone but were actually pure fentanyl.  This takes the drug overdose crisis to a new and more dangerous level.  Everyone who obtains any drug from an illicit source should know they are at tremendous risk of a fatal fentanyl overdose. 

With the number of new COVID cases and deaths finally heading in the right direction, we must renew our attention and focus on America’s “other” health emergency, the overdose epidemic.  Significant efforts by health professionals, advocates, law enforcement and government are being made to address this crisis.  With even more attention, collaboration and resources, countless lives can be saved.


Dr. Meigs has practiced family medicine in Bibb County for more than 30 years and serves as President of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama.

Posted in: Leadership, Opioid

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Op-ed: Alabama physicians face challenges head-on during vaccine rollout

Op-ed: Alabama physicians face challenges head-on during vaccine rollout

By: John Meigs, Jr., MD, President – Medical Association of the State of Alabama

Because of a seemingly slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, physicians have started to hear many concerns from their patients. Understandably, the people of Alabama are growing more eager each day to get vaccinated. Physicians were privileged to be included in the first tier of vaccine recipients and remain our patients’ biggest advocate for vaccination against the Coronavirus. 

In addition to issues like staffing shortages, a major obstacle we face is the fact that from week to week, our practices and hospitals are not alerted to when we are getting more vaccines or exactly how many we will receive. Even the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has no input into the quantity allocated and is typically notified less than 24 hours before the vaccine is shipped. This makes it extremely difficult to set up vaccination and follow-up appointments. 

It’s tempting but comparing Alabama’s response to surrounding states doesn’t necessarily make sense. The number of COVID-19 vaccine doses allocated to Alabama is based on our population and is not determined by how much vaccine is on hand in the state. The number of doses remaining from previous allocations does not affect the number of doses that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorizes for Alabama.

Alabama still faces struggles in figuring out the logistics of vaccine distribution and allocation but there are a few things your physician wants you to know about the process.

  • The Federal Government determines the quantity of vaccines that are allocated to the state.
  • There is a shortage of available vaccines in Alabama.
  • There are 326,000 healthcare providers, nursing home residents, law enforcement officers, firefighters and 350,000 persons 75 years of age and older that are currently eligible for the vaccine.
  • The number of first doses of the vaccine shipped to Alabama per week only averages around 50,000 to 60,000.

Wide distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine will take time. While we are anxious for the vaccine to be made available to all Alabamians, physicians also want to urge you to wait until you fall into the appropriate tier. As of January 28th, Alabama is administering vaccines to healthcare workers, residents and staff in long-term care facilities, first responders, and individuals 75 years of age and older. 

We know vaccines are the best bet to slow this pandemic down and get enough folks immunized so the virus won’t spread as easily. However for now, even after we get vaccinated, we need to continue to wear masks and physically distance. We want to protect folks from a disease that can be very deadly. If we all work together, we will be that much closer to getting life back to normal.

Posted in: Coronavirus, Leadership, Members

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Discussions with Decisionmakers: Senator Dan Roberts

Discussions with Decisionmakers: Senator Dan Roberts

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself – Primary occupation? Interests? Hobbies?

Growing up, my family moved around a good bit, and we lived as far north as Buffalo, New York, and as far south as Mobile, Alabama. That said, I finished high school in Birmingham and went on to Auburn University where I obtained a degree in Building Science Construction. Following undergrad, I worked in construction for Blount International and worked in South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

I returned to the U.S. to obtain a Masters Degree in Real Estate Development and Urban Affairs from Georgia State. In graduate school, I started our own company doing international trading in South Korea and Pacific Rim countries. I started a real estate sales and development firm based in Birmingham, which I continue to do today.

As far as hobbies go, our seven grandchildren (from our three sons) take up most of our free time my wife and I might have. We enjoy hunting, fishing, and farming, and are blessed to have developed a Treasure Forest and tree farm in central Alabama.

2. What first prompted you to consider running for your Senate District seat and how do you believe your background and experiences help you serve in the legislature?

From an early age I have had an interest in politics and policy. From serving on the Student Government Association in both high school and at Auburn, as well as holding positions in organizations like Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Campus Outreach Brazil, I have a passion for being involved.

In addition to my background in real estate development and international trade, I have also invested in various companies and served on various boards across Alabama. All of these experiences have given me a unique outlook on cultures and markets and, in turn, a unique outlook on legislative policy.

3. During the last legislative session, you were a leading voice in bringing awareness to the need for expanding access and funding for telemedicine in Alabama.  Tell us a little about why this issue is so important to you. 

I’ve been fascinated with the field of medicine nearly my entire life. Not only does healthcare play a major role in my district, I also have many friends and family who work in the healthcare sector.

As far as telemedicine goes, I really was not aware on the impact this type of technology plays (and can play) in healthcare until I was elected to the Alabama Senate. While telemedicine has always been out there, I had never thought of it as a legislative opportunity to help address healthcare needs and disparities.

4. This pandemic has led to the rapid expansion and adoption of telemedicine both statewide and nationally. How do you believe it’s impacted Alabama patients and do you foresee these changes become permanent?

The rapid expansion of telemedicine has given physicians another tool in their tool chest to provide quality care to patients throughout the state. Still, we must ensure that the strides made during this pandemic – both for telemedicine and healthcare in general – do not diminish. To do this, we must ensure that physicians are adequately reimbursed for telemedicine visits if we are going to see this adoption remain and grow. We must also expand our broadband connectivity access to all areas of the state.

We are at the infancy of Telemedicine in our country. I believe that with the right vision and adoption we will see explosive growth in technology, patient adoption, Physician and patient benefits which will result in better patient health, cost savings, a more efficient health care delivery system. We will all be amazed in 2030 with what we have accomplished in Telemedicine.

5. If you could change one thing about our state’s health care system, what would it be?

Overall, we as a state need to be in better physical shape whether it be related to obesity, smoking, exercise, etc. It’s no secret that we’re not the healthiest state in the country. I know it’s a broad answer, but I would change how we think about and address personal health. 

6. How can the Medical Association – and physicians statewide – help better address Alabama’s health challenges?

A big role the Medical Association can play right now is continuing to push for increased telemedicine access and appropriate provider reimbursement. The Association can help us by ensuring future policy positively impacts physicians in all specialties, in all practice types and sizes, and all areas of the state.

While we’ve made progress, our progress will not become permanent without the input and advocacy from physicians. Physicians’ voices are heard through the Medical Association and that needs to continue.

7. What’s the one thing you would like to say to physicians in your district?

First of all, thank you for the untold hours you have spent in and out of hospitals and your offices. I know there are no scheduled hours for physicians, and those “hey doc” calls come
at all times.

To those on the front lines of this fight – whether it’s battling COVID-19 in the hospital or seeing patients in your office – thank you for your commitment to the profession and your patients. Many of you have put work over family, constantly risking your health so that others may have healthcare. Then leaving work trying to not take COVID 19 home with you.

We will get through this pandemic, and hopefully, we will be better able to address situations in the future. We will be better off for having fought this season, but we still have challenges and we must work together to be successful in the future.

For now, I would simply like to convey a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to all the physicians and healthcare workers. You are inspirational to us all. Thank you.

Posted in: Advocacy, Leadership

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Honoring Dr. Jefferson Underwood

Honoring Dr. Jefferson Underwood

Long-time Montgomery physician and Medical Association member Jefferson Underwood III, M.D., was recently honored with two distinct awards.

The Alabama Chapter American College of Physicians recognized Jefferson Underwood III, MD, FACP, as the 2020 Laureate Award recipient and the Medical Association of the State of Alabama presented Dr. Underwood with the 2020 Samuel Buford Word Award. These presentations are typically made in person at the annual meetings, but due to the cancellation of this year’s events because of COVID-19, Dr. Underwood was honored in his home with a small group of family and colleagues present.

In 2018, Dr. Underwood became the first African-American male to serve as President of the Medical Association. He previously served the Association as President-Elect, Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer.

He is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Alabama State University in Montgomery and Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn. He completed his internship and residency at D.C. General Hospital/Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

He previously received the Douglas L. Cannon Award from the Medical Association for Outstanding Medical Journalism for Community Service, the Alabama Young Democrats Achievement Award for Community Service in Health, 2005 Physician of the Year and 2015 Montgomery’s Top Doctor by the International Association of Internal Medicine.

“It was an honor for me to present the 2020 Samuel Buford Word Award, the Medical Association’s highest honor, to Jefferson Underwood.  The Word Award is presented to a physician for outstanding service to humanity that goes above and beyond the usual call of duty.  That certainly describes Jefferson Underwood,“ said John S. Meigs, Jr., MD, current President of the Medical Association. “Whether in his service to the Association, his service to the community or his service to his profession, Jefferson has always exemplified grace, dignity and compassion with a quiet strength and conviction that characterized his own sense of fairness and respect for others that resulted in true service to humanity.”

Giving back to his community is one of Dr. Underwood’s passions. As an adjunct professor at Alabama State University, he taught biology. He also served on the board of directors for the Montgomery Area United Way, the Alliance for Responsible Individual Choices for AIDS/HIV, Montgomery County Health Department Hunt Diabetic Clinic, Central Alabama Home Health, Oxford Home Health, Father Walter’s Center for Gifted Children, Habitat for Humanity, and was the health editor for The Montgomery Advertiser.

During the presentation of the awards, Dr. Underwood was also presented with a clock from the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners as a memento of his service to the Board.  “Why do we present you with a clock?  Because, the clock represents time, and, time represents eternity.  As a member of our Board staff has said, ‘Once a member of the Board, always a member of the Board,’” Dr. Mark LeQuire, MD FACR, explains. “In preparation for this presentation, I walked about the halls of the Board building, admiring the composites of previous Board members, and was invigorated to remember the giants in medicine in the State of Alabama whom have served.  Jefferson you are one of those giants, and now, you will always be one of those giants.  The fraternity of your fellow Board members thanks you for your service, for the exemplary manner in which you modeled the perfect physician priest, for your calming demeanor and influence in times of both need and stress, and for just simply being our brother and our friend.  Remember, we will always cherish you, you will never be forgotten, and we are always at your service.  May our God bless you and yours every so richly and deeply.”

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President’s Statement on Coronavirus COVID-19

President’s Statement on Coronavirus COVID-19

We now have thirty-two confirmed cases of the new coronavirus infection in Alabama.  We have all seen how this new virus has spread around the world from its beginning in China just a few months ago.  The World Health Organization has now classified this as a pandemic.  However, please remember that compared to the flu, the number of cases in Alabama, in this country and worldwide are still quite small.  I am hopeful that folks will not panic and let common sense dictate their response to this situation.  Our state and federal governments, the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Medical Association and others are all working to implement reasonable responses to this evolving situation.  Everyone’s health and safety is our primary concern.

Some important things to remember:

  1.  Over 90% of the cases of COVID-19 have been mild and resemble the common cold.
  2. Half of the people worldwide that have contracted this disease have now completely recovered.
  3. Folks most at risk for this disease include the elderly and especially those with underlying medical conditions such as COPD, diabetes, heart disease or cancer.
  4. Not everyone needs to be tested for the coronavirus, those needing to be tested need to meet certain criteria that suggest they may be at risk for this disease.

How can you best protect yourself and avoid becoming ill from the coronavirus:

  1. If you are sick, stay home.  If you have a cough and fever, stay home.
  2. If you are sick, call your family physician or primary care provider and let them help you determine if you need to be tested or seen. 
  3. During any kind of pandemic, you should avoid going to the Emergency Room or the Doctors’ Office for routine things that could be handled after the pandemic passes.  Remember: that is where the sick folks are and that is who you need to avoid.
  4. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.  Hand sanitizers should only be used when soap and water are not available.
  5. Cover your cough, cough into your elbow.
  6. Keep your hands away from your face.
  7. Avoid large crowds and crowded spaces.  Social distancing, which means staying at least 6 feet from the nearest person, is the best way to avoid coming in contact with this and other infectious diseases.

We need to all work together to meet the challenge of this new coronavirus disease.  Avoiding panic and using good common sense measures can help us all stay safe and healthy.

John S. Meigs, MD, FAAFP

President, Medical Association of the State of Alabama

Posted in: Leadership, Members, Official Statement

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Call for Elective Offices

Call for Elective Offices

The following are positions for offices in the Medical Association which will be elected at the 2020 Business Session. Nominations for statewide offices are presented through a Nominating Committee process. District offices (*) are nominated from district caucuses.  Qualified candidates shall have been regular, government or academic employee members of the association for at least three years after completion of their residency or fellowship.




Vice President

Board of Censors (3-year term)

District 1          Charles Max Rogers, MD*                    Eligible for re-election

District 2          Michael T. Flanagan, MD*                   Eligible for re-election

At-Large 1        Mark H. LeQuire, MD                          Eligible for re-election

At-Large 2        Beverly Jordan, MD                             Eligible for re-election

AMA Delegation (2-year term)

Delegate 2        Boyde J. “Jerry” Harrison, MD              Eligible for re-election

Delegate 4        George “Buddy” Smith, Jr., MD            Eligible for re-election

Alt. Delegate 1 John S. Meigs, M.D.                             Eligible for re-election

Alt. Delegate 2 William Schneider, M.D.                      Eligible for re-election

Alt. Delegate 3 Harry Kuberg, M.D.                             Eligible for re-election

Alt. Delegate 4 Raymond Broughton, M.D.                   Eligible for re-election

Council on Medical Education (3-year term)

District 1          Holly G. Pursley, MD*                         Not eligible for re-election

District 6          Tracy Jacobs, MD*                               Eligible for re-election

District 7          Catherine Skinner, MD*                       Eligible for re-election

At-Large 1        Russell Barr, MD                                  Not eligible for re-election

Council on Medical Service (3-year term)

District 3          Arden Aylor, MD*                               Eligible for re-election

District 7          Matthew R. Thom, MD*                       Not eligible for re-election

At-Large 3        Deborah Kolb, MD                               Eligible for re-election


The deadline for submitting nominations to the nominating committee is Thursday, January 9, 2020. Please submit nominations to

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What Should You Consider When Planning Physician Compensation?

What Should You Consider When Planning Physician Compensation?

The changes in health care reimbursement and the rising costs of the health care business have prompted groups to look at options related to physician compensation. The addition of mid-level providers and ancillary services, the revenue and costs in a practice can look quite different than it did five to 10 years ago. A group may have adopted a compensation plan for collegiality based on keeping the group together long-term. This model is beneficial due to its simplicity, but only if the physicians worked at an equal pace and the costs were consistent among the group. It is rare to see this model, due to the fact that highly productive physicians want to be compensated for their work. Some physicians are more efficient and confident with electronic aids and can see more patients than their counterparts.

The ultimate goal in physician compensation planning is to ensure everyone believes the plan is fair, transparent and it rewards individual physicians for their work. Our team of accountants and consultants work to understand the goals of the group and the nuances that must be considered to arrive at a fair and compliant decision. The practice administrator’s opinion should be considered in compensation planning, but a trusted advisor is key to leading the effort due to the fact it is a sensitive subject that requires an objective opinion.

Six key issues are important when preparing for a change in physician compensation models. To begin, interview the physicians to get their thoughts on the current compensation structure and what should be considered in a new plan.  Secondly, review the segmentation of revenue by physicians and other billable providers. Dissect professional, technical and ancillary services and review for Stark Law implications related to physician compensation. Review employment contracts related to employed physicians or providers to assure the compliance of a proposed bonus structure.

In addition, analyze the overhead to assign costs as fixed, direct or variable categories. Fixed costs are consistent each month, such as; rent, administrative staff, equipment lease, etc. Variable costs change as the volume of service increases or decreases. Direct costs are those associated with each physician, such as individualized staff, equipment or other resources.

Fourthly, review nuances in the group related to medical directorships, mid-level supervision and lines of business, for example, Obstetrics vs. Gynecological services. Some groups are joining accountable care organizations or engaging is value-based contracts or capitated arrangements that require analysis to assure its effect on the compensation plan.

Fifthly, it is important to plan at least three options for the allocation of revenue, costs and bonus structure revealing the pros and cons for each arrangement. Place a quarter of historical data into a sample to reflect each option for every physician. This allows for questions and requested variations to arrive at the best decision for the group.

Lastly, the group and advisors should meet regularly after the new plan is implemented to address any unforeseen outcomes and continue the impact analysis of the plan.  As value-based revenue and other revenue streams evolve, it is reasonable to review the compensation plan at least every three years to assure practice changes aren’t adversely impacting the group.

Article contributed by Tammie Lunceford, Healthcare and Dental Consultant, Warren Averett Healthcare Consulting Group. Warren Averett is an official Gold Partner with the Medical Association.

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Practice Culture is a Reflection of Leadership

Practice Culture is a Reflection of Leadership

This article is a continuation of the leadership series started by Jim Stroud in 2018. As many of you may know, Jim retired from Warren Averett in December 2018, after serving for many years as an advisor in our health care division. Practice administrators and physicians would seek his advice related to dissension among the physicians, leadership struggles or resistance to change in a changing environment, and more. Jim would communicate the issue, engage our team to assess the details, and resolve the crisis. We often provided ongoing advisory services to foster physician leadership or assist the administrator in facilitating change.

At times, the problems had resulted from governance issues within the practice. A small practice usually relies upon a physician owner to set the practice goals. The practice can only grow and evolve if he or she stays abreast of changes. Every group practice started small and grew over time due to the consistency of the leadership and a clear vision. Most groups employ an administrator to handle most of the day-to-day decisions and lead the practice through strategic goals. Occasionally, we see a practice that grew through the addition of physicians, but there is still no strategic plan for the future.

Communication Is Key

The practice culture is a result of key behaviors of the leadership. Better performing practices have a clear vision statement and review it during all strategic decisions. These practices hold regular physician meetings and keep the practice moving in a strategic fashion. They communicate clearly and practice transparency in setting goals. Better performers value advisors to assist in key decisions and advise through strategic planning. The culture trickles down to how effectively the administrator communicates goals and engages the staff.

A positive culture fosters teamwork through effective communication. Think about how you want the staff and your patients to view your practice. The staff will showcase your culture through the performance of their jobs.  I worked with a practice last year whose physician leader had fostered loyalty and success in the staff through “morning huddles.” The staff worked well as a team and supported each other as problems occurred each day. The culture should evolve by hiring staff that understands the goals of the practice and how their job is important to the success of the practice. A physician/administrator team that communicates vision, trains and engages their staff will grow leaders in every area of the practice.

Our practices will continue to face challenges; the regulatory changes alone will keep a practice on their toes. As technology evolves, our practices have many opportunities to serve patients through new platforms and initiatives. Leadership begins with the physicians. If they effectively communicate their vision, they build a practice that attracts new physicians and loyal staff.

Article contributed by Tammie Lunceford, Healthcare and Dental Consultant, Warren Averett Healthcare Consulting Group. Warren Averett is an official Gold Partner with the Medical Association.

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ALBME Names New Executive and Associate Executive Directors

ALBME Names New Executive and Associate Executive Directors

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama Board of Medical Examiners has named Sarah H. Moore as its new executive director and William M. Perkins as its associate executive director. Moore and Perkins, both of Montgomery, are the first female and first African American to serve the ALBME in executive roles.

“We are fortunate to have individuals of their caliber on board,” ALBME Chairman Joseph Falgout, M.D., said. “We have a tremendous responsibility to protect the public and are confident Mrs. Moore and Perkins not only share our commitment to that duty but with their knowledge and skills, will be instrumental in helping fulfill that mission.”

Moore officially assumed her new position on Feb. 1 and the Wilcox County native, an accountant by training, brings with her a wealth of experience as a state regulator and in large organizational management and public administration. Since 2014, Moore has served as chairman of the board and administrator of the Alabama Credit Union Administration, the entity responsible for licensing, regulating and supervising state-chartered credit unions.

Prior to joining ACUA, she served as an executive of an NYSE bank holding company for 13 years in numerous roles, including senior executive vice president and chief financial officer. As well, Moore worked for nearly a decade with the predecessor to PricewaterhouseCoopers, auditing financial, governmental, real estate and insurance industry clients.

In addition to her professional achievements, Moore has been active in civic affairs, including serving as current president of the Montgomery Area Food Bank, past president of the Montgomery Rotary Club (first female president in the club’s 83-year history) and past Advisory Council member of the Auburn University Business School, among others. She holds a degree in Business Administration and Accounting from Auburn University.

“I am honored the Board has placed its confidence in me,” Moore said. “I’m humbled by the opportunity to serve in this important position and to work with the dedicated physicians and staff of this agency to continue striving to uphold high standards for medicine and protect the patients of this state.”

Perkins began his new position with the ALBME as associate executive director in mid-January. A Montgomery native, Perkins has more than 30 years’ experience in leadership roles in law enforcement, military and regulatory organizations. His professional history includes serving as an officer with the U.S. Army Alabama National Guard; serving as a police captain, investigator, executive officer to the mayor, and other roles in the Montgomery Police Department; and, as Company Commander for the 1203rd Engineering Battalion of the U.S. Army National Guard.

Prior to accepting the position of associate executive director for the ALBME, Perkins worked for eight years as an investigator with the agency before in May 2018 becoming office director and overseeing the agency’s daily operations. For his military service, Perkins was awarded the Bronze Star for Operation Iraq Freedom, the Desert Award, four Army Medals of Merit and two Army Commendation Medals.

He is deeply involved in his community, most actively working through the Omega Iota Iota Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. of which he is a life member, focusing on at-risk youth. Perkins is also a lifetime member of True Divine Baptist Church, where he’s served as a deacon since 2012. He earned a degree in Business Administration from Faulkner University.

“My entire career, whether with the military, the police department or the ALBME, I’ve been involved in some way in public protection,” Perkins said. “It’s been my life’s calling, and I appreciate the faith the Board has placed in me with this new position. Moving forward, I’d like to see this agency continue leading the way for health professional licensing boards in Alabama through increased adoption of improved protocols and cutting-edge investigatory techniques.”

The ALBME is the state regulatory agency tasked with licensing, certifying and regulating the practice of medicine and osteopathy in the State of Alabama. The Board’s duties include: qualifying physicians for licensure, approving collaborative and supervised practices between physicians and mid-level practitioners, registering physicians, physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to prescribe and dispense controlled substances and investigating and prosecuting violations of the Controlled Substances Act and the Medical Practice Act. To manage its more than 18,000 licensees, the Board employs a workforce of 31 trained investigators, attorneys and affiliated staff. The Board’s mission and purpose are to protect the safety and welfare of the public through the appropriate regulation of its licensees.

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Patient Satisfaction: What Is It Really Worth?

Patient Satisfaction: What Is It Really Worth?

In previous years, patient satisfaction discussions pertained only to patient surveys and results. Some managers believe surveys are utilized by specialties, such as plastic surgery practices that primarily operate on a cash basis. However, consumerism is here to stay! Cost and quality will create a level playing field in health care and increase the importance of patient satisfaction. When working with a practice, I love to sit in the waiting room to see operations from the patient’s point of view. I also search the specialty online to review the competition and the effectiveness of the practice’s website. During my research, I may also see online reviews, which speak directly to the patient experience.

Every business is a function of its people. Choosing the right people, training them continually and providing ongoing communication is essential to creating an exceptional patient experience. A successful practice has an established culture through a mission statement that is expressed each day through the actions of the physicians, managers and staff. Loyalty and profitability follow when an organization makes a promise to a customer and delivers on the promise over, and over again.

As an administrator, I begin with a good job description and then hire the person with the desired behaviors and skills to perform the task or job. A consistent training program is a key to success, it is not simply assigning a new staff to another employee for training. The staff training should occur through various methods with a supervisor or mentor. Once training is complete, the employee’s performance is validated before they are released to perform the task unsupervised.

Patient satisfaction surveys focus on each aspect of the patient’s visit to assure each person is delivering great service and managing their responsibilities to complete the assigned tasks. Medical staff may be highly trained on a specific clinical task, but a customer service attitude is essential when dealing with patients. Defining a plan to act quickly on feedback from a patient survey is essential to mitigate a problem.

You cannot prevent all problems, but the way you handle a problem can salvage a relationship. Establish key behaviors for staff to protect the patient relationship. If you hired people with a genuine heart for service in a medical practice, a problem may arise but the commitment to patient satisfaction should preserve the patient relationship.

Technology is rapidly improving. We have the tools to measure every activity in our practice to ensure the patient experience is exceptional. Phone systems have the capability to measure abandoned calls, length of time on hold, and the number of calls going to voicemail. Our practice management systems include reports and options to monitor first available appointments, percent of patients utilizing the patient portal and patient flow.

There are many tools to promote better patient engagement, including online registration to eliminate paperwork or automated appointment reminders using text, email or call. The patient portal, if promoted and correctly utilized, can reduce phone calls and improve the patient experience. The portal allows for ongoing communication, as opposed to hours waiting by the phone only to miss the call, which increases the call volume. The portal gives the patient access to information to share with other providers.

The development of defined processes and policies is essential to effective training. If the policies are ineffective, or if management does not enforce the policies, then the patient experience is affected. Patients who have an exceptional experience will tell a few people. If they have a poor experience, they may tell the story over and over again.

If your practice relies on referrals from other physician practices, do not underestimate the power of the referring office. The referring provider can send patients elsewhere if the patient is not satisfied with your practice. You should be able to identify the top 20 referring physicians and track the volume of referrals to assure it is consistent. The manager should contact the manager of the referring practice to assure needs are being met and the feedback is good.

It is important to know what makes your practice thrive. It is comprised of multiple factors, including good physicians and loyal employees, which lead to strong referring relationships. A medical practice exists for the patients, so what is patient satisfaction worth? EVERYTHING!

Article contributed by Tammie Lunceford, Healthcare and Dental Consultant, Warren Averett Healthcare Consulting Group. Warren Averett is an official partner with the Medical Association.

Posted in: Leadership

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