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An Entrepreneurial Spirit in Primary Care: Vishal Verma, MD, MBA

By Edward Araujo, Managing Editor, Arizona Physician

Photography by Ben Scolaro, scolarodesign.com

From Print Issue - Winter 2023
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As he ponders his career path, Vishal Verma, MD, can reflect on a journey in primary care that has brought him many highs. He is a breath of fresh air as a caring phy­sician & leader, an entrepreneur, and most importantly a person striving to continue learning and applying that learning to his profes­sion. Being a physician isn’t easy; neither is being an entrepreneur. Dr. Verma is that rare person who has worn both hats and built one of the largest primary care physician (PCP) focused medical groups in Arizona. Along the way, he managed to earn an advanced business degree (EMBA) focused on healthcare.

 

Vishal Verma, MD, began his medical career in Kasturba Medical College in Karnataka, India in the mid 1990’s. After graduating from medi­cal school, he completed both his residency and fellowship in Brooklyn, New York. Post fellowship, Dr. Verma began practicing in internal medicine in 2011 and has continued in Primary care, and Hospital Medicine to this day.

A Career in Medicine & Business

Dr. Vishal Verma's passion for medicine is grounded in a lifelong commitment to serving humanity. He saw in his parents two purpose driven adults dedicated to helping those less fortunate and their example to this day remains the inspiration for his career in medicine. His journey with 4C Medical Group began in 2013. Within a short time, his leadership strength began steer­ing the group from one success to the next. The 4C Medical Group became a collective-effort led by passionate physicians who wanted to create an elite organization capable of delivering exceptional quality, cost-effective, timely, compassionate, data-driven, and goal-driven care to its patients across Arizona. 4C physicians strove to develop a system of medical care that not only enhanced the patient’s experience but also enhanced the physician’s experi­ence within the healthcare delivery model.

 

“We demonstrated to the world that the hard-earned TRUST of physicians and patients is not a commodity that can be traded in the free market but a precious asset that should be nurtured and treasured. This trust was the catalyst of the massive transformation 4C went through… and as they say, rest is history.” Vishal Verma, MD

 

4C Medical was unique as it was both physician-led and patient-centric. Dr. Verma and his partner physicians were able to demonstrate in the primary care market that physicians can come together to build both a reputable and well-run organization that one day would become a part of a Fortune 500 company. “I am so deeply honored to have led an organization such as 4C Medical through some challenging times; especially during the global pan­demic, to its pinnacle when it became a part of Optum.

 

After 4C Medical became Optum, due to a conversa­tion with an Optum executive, Dr. Verma was inspired to continue his business education. He enrolled at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business to earn an Executive MBA. That academic exercise only further augmented the work he and his partners had done at 4C Medical. Additionally, the Executive MBA opened a new world of healthcare entrepreneurship opportunities for him.

 

Currently Dr. Verma serves as a physician execu­tive cum advisor at Abrazo Health. Though being at a larger hospital system is a new challenge, Dr. Verma enjoys his role. His position has enabled deeper insights into understanding how payors are driving acute care medicine and the many challenges hospitals face in delivering quality acute care. Also, his current posi­tion has familiarized him with payor barriers and how such barriers impact healthcare outcomes. The position has also provided him a bird’s eye view of how difficult it is for patients to navigate through a very complex healthcare system. He has observed firsthand how disparities, lack of equity, and social determinants of health are the real challenges facing patients in their jour­ney to accessing good quality affordable care.

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The Current State of Primary Care

“Primary Care today lacks resources, is under­paid, fragmented, overburdened, exhausting, and in need of a complete overhaul,” notes Dr. Verma.

 

Dr. Verma shares that primary care matters to patients because they feel it’s their most cost-effective way to access quality care. Yet, it’s fragmented and at times isolated from mainstream medicine. Patients want more time with their doctors, but the opposite is happening. “Health care must be personal and has to be customized to fit the needs of the population that a clinician is serving,” states Dr. Verma.

 

Dr. Verma identifies several problems in primary care. First, there is the burden of administrative tasks which constrain the doctor-patient experience and relationship. Second, shrinking reimbursements, which lead younger physicians to choose other specialties. Third, he notes physicians are “getting tired of the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach in the current primary care model used at many practices.” Consequent burnout is a real problem in primary care.

 

But does such a dire assessment warrant hopelessness? “Absolutely not!” states Dr. Verma. He believes the administrative tasks burden placed on physicians can be reduced. Further, appropriate staffing of primary care clinics can lower support-staff attrition. Third, improving the efficiency and perfor­mance of the payment models and increasing reimbursements can turn the tide. Fourth, make a push for more primary care-focused residency programs. Fifth, subsidize medical education so physicians aren’t starting their careers with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Finally, build true physician-led and patient-centric care delivery models that focus on delivering high quality, low-cost care, while bringing joy and pride to the physicians toiling in the clinic. By making such material changes to our healthcare, Dr. Verma believes that primary care physicians can once again truly enjoy being in medicine.

 

Primary care has seen continued consolida­tion in the market. Many practices are merging into larger groups with payors, hospitals, and even national pharmacy drug stores are buying primary care practices. Dr. Verma remains unconvinced that such trends will improve primary care. He shares that in some of those types of practices it can lead to an exhausted primary care workforce that has lost professional joy and pride. Furthermore, most physicians and clinicians are frustrated by the rampant greed that exists in such corporate healthcare models.

 

What the Future Holds

In primary care, the goal should always be to deliver quality, cost-effective, timely, and passionate care to patients. Care that not only enhances the patient’s experience but also the experience of those that are providing it like physicians and other clinicians. This can only happen through an exceptional care delivery model that should be physician-led, patient-centric and data-driven.

 

These primary care practices should serve as the hub of the healthcare delivery model of the future. Advances in AI and other technology driven solu­tions need to be deployed to diminish the burdens of the front office, back office and clinical support teams, leaving ample amount of time for clinicians to listen to their patients and assist the patients’ desire to live longer and healthier lives.

About the Author: 

Edward Araujo serves both as Managing Editor for Arizona Physician Magazine and Director of Marketing & Communications at the Maricopa County Medical Society (MCMS). He has over 20 years of digital marketing and non profit operational experience.  

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