Rakesh Pai, MD, MBA, MHCDS
For cardiologist Rakesh Pai, there’s an inherent satisfaction in helping a patient successfully manage an arrhythmia, congestive heart failure, or other big challenges. But Pai also has the creative drive of an entrepreneur, and in quiet moments, his mind naturally wanders to the bigger issues reflected in his practice—and to dreaming up scalable solutions.
“I saw a lot of waste in the day-to-day clinical work that I always found a bit frustrating,” says Pai, who now works as both a cardiologist and medical director of population health management for the Oregon region of Providence Health & Services, a large West Coast health care system. “I felt there weren’t enough people thinking about the really big issues—how do we think about a population, how do we design programs that make an impact, how do we reduce costs, reduce utilization of what I call low-value services, and do everything we can to make sure those most at-risk patients get the care that they need?”
Pai’s inclination to think on the macro level set him up as a good candidate to help lead the organization as it transitions from a fee-for-service model to a value-based model. In his new role, he has helped design pilots, including a home program for at-risk elders, which includes access to a geriatrician, nurse practitioner, physical therapist, pharmacist, and even a priest. But Pai also realized that the programs need to have a return on investment—and as a physician, he could use more schooling in finance and management. In 2014, he got an MBA, but even that training didn’t precisely fit his needs.
It also appeals to his entrepreneurial inclination. For an action learning project, Pai is working to develop an online start-up that will educate medical, pharmacy, and nursing students in the latest health-care delivery concepts, including leadership, population health management, health economics, and shared decision making.
“There are all these cool things we want to do but we’ve got to make sure that they’re financially feasible,” says Pai. “MHCDS gives you a very deep toolbox.”