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By Katherine H. Capps, Co-Founder and Executive Director, GTMRx Institute

November 6, 2019

Once Halloween is over, we seem to cross over a threshold into a season of reflection and gratitude. For me, this season couldn’t have gotten off to a better start as I had the great fortune of spending time with old friends and colleagues who came together at the Primary Care Collaborative’s (PCC, formerly Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative) annual meeting this week. Among these leaders was someone who I’m privileged to call a colleague and a friend, Dr. Paul Grundy, founding board member, GTMRx Institute.
If you don’t know Paul by name, you know his work. Often called “the godfather of the medical home,” Paul gave voice to a new way for organizing medical care—around the patient and making care primary. In his new book, Trusted Healers, Dan Pelino, chronicles Paul’s life story. It is a remarkable and inspiring story of how a great leader and a trusted healer came to be a force for change—and continues to be so today. Few know of Paul’s early work with the State Department in Africa and of his white-hot missionary zeal likely inspired by his father.
Paul’s story offers those of us who aspire to be changemakers some important lessons in the power of unification, simplicity and compassion in an industry that is typically never thought about in these terms. It is a timely story as we cross the threshold of what Paul characterizes as a “New Age of Health Intelligence.”

Reflection

I met Paul when my firm was contracted by the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC). When ERIC health policy expert Edwina Rogers became PCC Executive Director, they invited my strategic communications consultancy, Health2 Resources, to offer guidance to ensure program and membership growth. It was at that time that I was able to witness firsthand his gift for bringing people together to facilitate meaningful, transformative change.
As I shared with Dan Pelino in Trusted Healers, what struck me most about Paul was his ability to provide the clarity of purpose and a steady voice during a time of chaos. Engaging large national employers within the primary care movement in support of the medical home was considered a radical concept at the time. This made it all the more remarkable that Paul was able to bring together a group of like-minded, forward-thinking leaders—people not always on the same side of table—and engage them to develop a new way to deliver better quality, more affordable primary care centered around the individual person.
One word I would use to describe Paul would be Sherpa,” Katie says. More than a mountain guide, a Sherpa leads someone on a path she explains; when people started traveling up mountains, they found people living in those areas that could guide them, taking them through the twists and turns, dangerous passages, keeping them out of harm’s way. “Paul guided this tentative bond between the buyers of healthcare and the delivery of healthcare, a sensitive union, through the twists and turns that arose as the movement matured,” Katie says.
—Dan Pelino, Trusted Healers, pp. 83-84.
It was largely through Paul’s leadership and guidance that the medical home movement became a real-world transformation across big health care systems, governmental health care programs and primary care practices on main street. But his mission didn’t end with the U.S.
There is a second definition of Sherpa—someone a ruler sends to represent them to a meeting or their ambassador so to speak. He guided the developed world to the value of the primary care physician, the Trusted Healers as the key to a safe journey through a dangerous and confusing medical experience,” Katie says.
—Dan Pelino, Trusted Healers, pp. 83-84.

Gratitude

While he retired from IBM and the PCC almost two years ago, the trusted healer, leader and provocateur that is Paul continues his life’s work—now lending his experience, voice and sherpa skills as an advisor to health care organizations and boards that are bringing forth a new generation of technology solutions to equip a new age of health care.

Last year, several health care leaders embarked on a journey to ignite a new movement around person-centered medication management called the GTMRx Institute (Get the Medications Right) to fix a big issue that is costing 275,000 people their lives each year and adds $528 billion of waste to our collective annual health care bill. These costs happen because our health care delivery and reimbursement system are not set up to answer one simple question, “Is this the right medicine for this person?”

 

The day I called Paul with this idea, he said without hesitation, “I’m in. Whatever I can do, I’m here to help.” And with that, Paul joined three others on a board of four that quickly became a board of nine senior executives  from like-minded organizations sharing the same passion and commitment. This important work builds off early work done at the PCC recognizing the opportunity for team-based primary care as an important driver to get the medications right.
As during the early years of the medical home movement, we find ourselves living in a time of chaos and social and political divisiveness. But these headwinds are not insurmountable. At the GTMRx Institute it is our view that the primary care setting offers the greatest opportunity to optimize medication use. But success requires team-based, patient-centered care models that recognize appropriately skilled clinical pharmacists as medication experts who work in collaborative practice with physicians and other providers. It also requires access to clinical information at the point-of-care along with insights offered by advanced and complimentary diagnostics.
As we at GTMRx progress down this path, I’m grateful for what Pelino recounts as Paul’s “sobering voice” and “steady illumination.” We benefit from his ability to focus like a laser on a health care crusade, “journeying to all points of the compass as well as setting a goal of making those small, persistent, and sometimes painstaking wins happen as soon as possible,” (Pelino, p. 84).
I’m also grateful to others who worked alongside Paul to advance the medical home model, offering us a model for bringing about sustainable change. Pelino writes in his book when pitching their care team model ProvenCare to primary care providers, Geisinger offered a confident, clear and direct value proposition around primary care, “Here’s a much better way. Here’s the proof it will be better. Here’s who is already doing it. Let us know when you are ready,” (Pelino, p. 153). 
It is in this spirit of the leaders—and sherpas—like Paul who have come before us that we will build on the success of so many to bring about fundamental change through a systematic approach to medication use in order to answer that one simple question correctly every time. I wish you a wonderful season of reflection, gratitude and renewal—and the fortune of having a sherpa by your side!
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