Serge Perras – ChenMed
Let’s say you’re a physician whose patient is in the prime age range for developing prostate cancer—or is showing possible symptoms of the disease.
Instead of automatically ordering the industry standard prostate-specific antigen test or PSA—which is expensive, invasive and notorious for delivering false positives—you turn to your state-of-the-art electronic medical records system.
Not only does it outline the patient’s medical history (including interdependent health conditions, individual risk factors and patient progress on a personalized care plan), but each EMR patient record is infused with the latest recommendations and medical research news.
Equipped with all this information, you can promptly make the best care recommendations for the patient—be it a PSA test, biopsy or another personalized care alternative.
This is a real example that underscores how the Miami-based provider serving tens of thousands of at-risk seniors in 10 states is creating much-needed positive market disruption to significantly improve health care while lowering total cost of care, says Chief Technology Officer Serge Perras.
“Our doctors are passionate about delivering VIP service, detecting and managing high-risk diseases and reducing hospital sick days,” Perras says. “Happily, our proprietary EMR is a powerful tool to ensure patients benefit from timely, data-driven decisions by the doctor who knows them best.”
Primary care, reimagined
ChenMed was founded 35 years ago by Dr. Jen-Ling James Chen. Frustrated by the fee-for-service health care that places profits before patients—pushing for often unnecessary, expensive services and procedures—Dr. Chen became a value-based care pioneer, accepting 100 percent risk for patient health and care costs in return for per member, per month income from Medicare Advantage health plans, Perras explains.
Now a global risk provider of choice for over 20 MA plans, ChenMed primary care physicians serve patient panels of 400 to 450 patients, about one-fifth the national average of 2,300 patients per primary care doctor. This structure gives patients unrivaled access to the doctor who knows them best. They can secure same-day and walk-in appointments, and they also have doctors’ cell phone numbers to get timely replies to health concerns.
Physician incentives are aligned with patient satisfaction and health outcomes, so ChenMed doctors earn trust by nurturing strong relationships and focusing on early diagnosis, preventive care and coaching to improve diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors, Perras says.
“At ChenMed, everyone wins when patients are healthier. This is in stark contrast to fee-for-service medicine where doctors earn more when patients are sicker, and when they need acute care in hospital settings,” he says. “With value-based medicine, the cost of care goes way down, and studies show that there are 50 percent fewer hospital admissions.”
The ChenMed approach is so compelling, he adds, that Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Seema Verma, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, are encouraging widespread physician adoption of risk-based compensation.
Cutting edge technical support
Not long after joining ChenMed in 2017, Perras and his ChenMed technology peers identified multiple platforms requiring significant overhauls to accommodate rapid and sustained growth (an average of 35 percent yearly).
Since traditional EMRs remain focused on billing for allowed medical services—not on supporting the holistic patient care that is the ChenMed norm—his team opted to build the company a new Care Suite.
Leveraging microservices-based architecture, they created a more flexible platform that provides quicker results and can scale different services independently—two things that are practically impossible with “monolithic” legacy systems. The nimbler system will support ChenMed’s continued expansion for years to come, Perras says.
Now his team is working with AI and natural language processing to further assist ChenMed doctors in their lifesaving mission. This smarter system verifies and uses analytics on diverse medical information data sources, sharing recommendations with practicing physicians to help speed diagnoses and non-acute interventions. A powerful new capability also manages drug interactions, drug adherence and drug allergies.
By constantly shoring up and increasing this EMR capability, ChenMed offers its doctors a “second brain” of sorts, Perras says. What’s more, continued optimization of analytics reduces the amount of time doctors spend on the system, thereby creating more face-to-face time with patients.
With the company remaining in hyper-growth mode, ChenMed’s technology team is focused on all-around scalability. It is also evaluating robotics process automation to reduce repetitive manual tasks. Additionally, ChenMed has found value in the use of New Relic, an application monitoring platform, and through partnerships with industry technology experts such as Trexin, Perras says.
“The goal is to free up time, free up capacity,” he says, “so that our physicians and staff can do higher-value work.”
A unique, well-rounded perspective
Performing higher-value work has always been one of Perras’ goals—one to which he brings a uniquely global perspective.
Equipped with an “engineering mindset” from a young age, he always found computers compelling, he says, learning programming with some of the earliest PCs (Commodores and Apples) in the early 80s.
Still, he describes his teenage self as “uninspired” and “not challenged.” He even dropped out of high school for a time. But he returned once he had experience “in the school of life,” realizing that the bar for being successful was a college degree.
Holding an MBA from the University of Miami, where he studied international business, he has since followed a varied, international career path: working for the Canadian government early in his career; for a Paris financial institution during the Y2K hysteria; and moving between companies in Ottawa, Chicago, Indianapolis, Omaha, North Carolina and California.
Prior to joining ChenMed, he was dedicated to consulting work—though the role left him wanting more.
“As a consultant, you have all the responsibility, but none of the ownership. It’s difficult to start projects, see them through to just about completion and then not get the benefits or enjoy the fruits of your labor.”
He enjoys the ongoing process of improving, tweaking and evolving projects and being with a company that “provides for the good of society,” Perras says. “I wanted to go somewhere where I could make a difference for people in a positive way.”
And, most assuredly, he has found that opportunity at ChenMed.
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