Sees aligning quality, outcomes and cost as greatest challenge

[caption id="attachment_33403" align="alignleft" width="154" caption="Kirk Pappas"][/caption]

SANTA ROSA – Kirk Pappas, a physician in Santa Rosa for the past 18 years and a former president of the Sonoma County Medical Association, has been named as the new physician-in-chief at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center of Santa Rosa.

Dr. Pappas will replace Dr. Robert Shultz, who announced he was retiring last year after 15 years as Kaiser’s top doctor. Dr. Pappas began his term Monday.

Prior to joining Kaiser Santa Rosa in 1993, Dr. Pappas worked in a solo private practice serving patients in San Ramon and San Leandro in the East Bay.

Dr. Pappas is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and specializes in the non-surgical rehabilitation of spine injuries, sports injuries and work-related injuries, Kaiser said. He obtained his medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit and completed three years of training in physical medicine and rehab at Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago.

Before assuming his new role of physician-in-chief, he was the assistant physician-in chief for Health Promotion and Diversity at Kaiser Santa Rosa.

As the incoming physician-in-chief, Dr. Pappas said a host of health care challenges face Sonoma County, just as they face the nation – ranging from the still-rising costs, an anticipated shortage of primary care physicians to access of primary care itself.

Asked what the biggest challenge facing Sonoma County was, he said, “It’s the same problem throughout the nation. We need to address the quality of health care outcomes versus what is spent on them. Locally, disease prevention, access to care and a medical home remain challenges.”

In describing health care challenges, Dr. Pappas said the current practice of reimbursing health care practitioners for what he described as a “fee-for-service” model was “broken.”

The reimbursement model fails to reward quality, preventative care and instead places value on health care consumption, he said.

“If the incentives for quality are in the right place, it will get figured out,” he said.

Kaiser’s emphasis on preventative care and technology that permits the most integration possible are both good examples of how health care providers can create better health care outcomes, he said.

Sonoma County estimates that an additional 45,000 individuals will become eligible for health care in light of the federal health overhaul last year. With that, a shortage of primary care physicians is expected. Dr. Pappas said this is of particular importance, both locally and nationally, stressing the importance of primary care and its role in preventive care.

“If you know your primary care doctor, your quality outcomes are better,” he said. “And you’re talking to the specialist of specialists. If you want to have a long life, if you have a common acute non-life threatening disorder – all those thing are better addressed with primary care doctors.”

He also said partnership with federally qualified health centers would be a key element in bringing physicians to Sonoma County. Such centers often serve as residency grounds for younger doctors.

“FQHCs are really strategic to improve care,” he said.

He added, “I view my accountability as trying to improve the health of all 500,000 people in Sonoma County. I have dedicated my last 18 years to do just that.”

Kaiser insures about 170,000 people in Sonoma County.