GARDEN CITY — When Dr. David Peterman, longtime CEO of Primary Health Medical Group, announced his retirement, he found himself stopped at the grocery store.
He received emails and Facebook messages. People were thanking him for being a trusted voice during the COVID-19 pandemic, Peterman said.
“It was surprising to me, and I’m glad it was helpful,” Peterman said. “Really, what I’ve tried to do is give clear and simple facts about the coronavirus and separate it from the politics.”
Primary Health’s size – neither too big nor too small – makes it nimble enough to pivot and act quickly, said company president Tracy Morris. For example, because different vaccines were approved for different age groups, Peterman would arrive at work that day to ask how to prepare the facilities to vaccinate newly eligible children, she said. If they had vaccines available, they would be ready by the afternoon to begin vaccinations, including creating appointment slots and mobilizing nurses, she said.
“I don’t think we would have done this as quickly as we did without him insisting that we come first and do what’s right for the community,” she said.
Peterman, who has acted as CEO since 2004, worked his last day on May 13. Prior to that, and for those 18 years, he worked to realize a vision of more accessible healthcare in Treasure Valley.
The Primary Health Medical Group now has 23 clinics, more than 120 providers and 650 employees, Peterman said.
Although handling the pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges, Peterman said he was proud of his company’s accomplishments.
“While the coronavirus has had so much tragedy and so much disruption for our community, for us on a personal level, I am incredibly grateful and privileged to be the CEO, Primary Health Medical Group Leader, and to have this amazing team that was able to meet so many community needs,” he said.
Dr Dan Reed, who most recently worked as the group’s director of family medicine, is the group’s new CEO.
PRIMARY HEALTH: “CONTINUITY WITH PATIENTS OVER TIME”
Peterman moved to Boise in 1980 with his wife, Mary, from Denver, Colorado. Initially, he worked for a four-person pediatric group called Pediatric Associates. But he’s become curious about making health care more efficient, accessible and “frankly, higher quality”, he said.
In 1994, when the opportunity arose for his medical group to become part of Primary Health Inc., a combined insurance company and medical group, Peterman took the plunge. He began to hold leadership positions within the group.
The relationship between medical groups and insurance companies was different back then, Peterman said. The health care side was seen as the provider, while the insurance side was seen as having to pay for everything, Peterman said. The medical group didn’t have as much say in the structure they were part of, and the relationship wasn’t as collaborative, which led to tension, he said.
“It became clear to me that the conflict of an insurance company owning a medical group was just tough,” Peterman said. “I thought it was very important that we split up and become independent.”
In 2004, the medical part was redeemed and became Primary Health Medical Group. Peterman became its CEO, he said. In this role, he collaborated with group members to realize his vision for better health care.
A big goal for primary health care providers is to create continuity with patients over time, Peterman said.
“You are the medical home for this patient, and you want to work closely with this patient to decide what’s best for him and his family, and in my case as a pediatrician, what’s best for him and his children,” Peterman said.
In the 2000s, urgent care clinics sprung up across the country, Peterman said. Peterman saw the integration of urgent care centers as an important pillar in creating continuity with patients, he said.
Urgent care centers improve health care experiences because patients and patients’ relatives have quick access to medical care without having to make an appointment, Peterman said.
He started thinking about how to create a health care system that combines emergency care and preventive services, he said. For example, if a patient came for emergency care and was found to have high blood pressure, he could be treated for whatever was ailing him at the time and referred to the care clinic. primary for an assessment of other treatments he may need, he said. . This model both addresses acute illnesses and encourages preventive care, he said.
“Across the country there were primary care clinics or hospitals that said ‘just add emergency care’ and that wasn’t us,” Peterman said. “Ours was a mixed clinic; we worked in synergy,” he said, adding that leaders spent a lot of time discussing the services to be offered in emergency care versus family medicine.
The company was also an early adopter of electronic health records, while working to provide better continuity for patients, Peterman said.
SEE GENERATIONS OF PATIENTS
In addition to his job as CEO, Peterman continued to see pediatric patients, he said. It was a gratifying experience to have patients he was used to seeing choose to have their own children treated, he said. He even saw the grandchildren of some of his patients.
Simply talking with patients periodically for 15-20 minutes allowed Peterman to share his patients’ stories, including joys, sadness and “normal stuff”, like a child getting a B+ on his test. math, he said.
“Parents take their kids and leave my office and I’m left with those wonderful memories, and then I see them again a year later,” Peterman said.
COVID-19 BRINGS NEW CHALLENGES
Primary Health’s marketing team noticed a phenomenon during the COVID-19 pandemic: Before the spike in cases, website visits “skyrocketed,” Peterman said.
The public understood they could get information from Primary Health, he said. While hospitals can also provide such information, they should focus on caring for the very sick, he said.
Peterman has worked with local hospitals such as Saint Alphonsus and St. Luke’s to better support the large number of patients requiring COVID testing and information, he said. They held weekly phone calls to coordinate care and try to prevent patients from becoming seriously ill and needing emergency care, preserving space in hospitals for patients who would need such care. , did he declare.
This involved improving outreach and communication with the public through social media and other channels, creating clinics where COVID-19 testing could take place, and increasing their capacity to take phone calls from patients and to answer questions, he said.
The clinic’s response illustrated its proof of concept, Peterman said.
“With a pandemic, it doesn’t matter if it’s influenza or Ebola…it has to be dealt with at the clinic…at the village level,” Peterman said.
In addition to working with hospitals, Peterman also credited Gov. Brad Little with recognizing the role primary health care plays, supporting clinics by ensuring they receive adequate protective equipment and d have deployed National Guardsmen to assist with care efforts, he said.
COLLEAGUES: PETERMAN IS A “CHEERLEADER”; RELIES ON THE EXPERTISE OF OTHERS
Morris, president of Primary Health, worked with Peterman for 28 years, before he became CEO, she said. During this time, she admired Peterman’s advocacy for the company’s potential and its services in the local community, she said.
“He’s absolutely the biggest cheerleader in Primary Health,” Morris said. This has resulted in an unwavering commitment to contributing to the local healthcare landscape, in tandem with big players such as St. Luke’s and Saint Al’s, she said.
“He wasn’t afraid to talk to them about how primary health care could be part of that picture, how we could partner with them and improve the quality of health care in our market,” Morris said.
When coronavirus vaccines first became available for wide distribution in early January 2021, local hospitals were inundated with patients, Morris said. Peterman saw an opportunity to position Primary Health clinics to vaccinate people quickly, she said. They let hospitals know they were increasing vaccination capacity, hired student nurses to help and opened more vaccination sites, some of which focused exclusively on weekend vaccination, she said. declared.
Chryssa Rich, the company’s chief marketing officer, has held the position for the past eight years and noted Peterman’s ability to rely on employees with the right skills to get things done. Peterman, and the company as a whole, have operated with a philosophy of bringing in the people closest to the problem to help solve it, she said.
“He’s very good at recognizing and respecting other people’s area of expertise, and he hasn’t tried to override our recommendations just because he’s the CEO,” she said.
Peterman said the best retirement advice he’s received so far is to not jump into new projects too soon. He plans to do things like mountain biking, fly fishing, visiting his two sons who live out of state more often, and eventually finding a niche where he can give back. the community.