St. Anthony's is a great place to be. Because it's an independent hospital, we're able to make decisions here that impact our community directly.
— Robert Curtin, MD
Plaza Internal Medicine
St. Anthony’s Physician Organization (SAPO) Poised for Growth
Q & A with Robert Curtin, M.D.
Plaza Internal Medicine, St. Anthony's Medical Center
Dr. Curtin, why did you make the decision to become a doctor, and why did you join the St. Anthony’s Physician Organization (SAPO) team?
I made the decision to become a doctor to try to help people. I really enjoy interacting with people and with their families. SAPO has been a great place to be: the doctors and employees who work at SAPO have been able to make a difference in the lives of our patients and their families. St. Anthony’s is a great place to be. Because it’s an independent hospital, we’re able to make decisions here that impact our community directly.
How does SAPO tie into St. Anthony’s overall mission?
I think SAPO is key to the overall mission of St. Anthony’s. More medicine is being practiced in an outpatient setting, and that’s going to continue. St. Anthony’s needs a strong outpatient presence, and SAPO is able to help it do that. We also know that patients have many choices for their health care. We want them to choose St. Anthony’s and our Physician Organization.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your practice as an internist?
I like dealing with patients with difficult diseases, often many diseases at once. I enjoy interacting with other doctors, and I like dealing with challenging illnesses and helping patients and their families to do well.
As medical director of SAPO, what achievements are you most proud of? What are your goals for the future?
Quality is one of the things I’m most proud of. There are a number of ways we can measure that. External agencies like the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) can certify physicians, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants in diabetes care and vascular care (heart/stroke). The NCQA is an external agency, a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. Internally, we evaluate ourselves with a variety of measures: numbers of screening tests, such as those to detect cancer; vaccination rates, and other means.
Secondly, we've been able to grow as an organization. In 2002, when SAPO was started, there were seven physicians in two practices. Today, the numbers have grown to just under 100 physicians in 15 primary care offices and 12 specialist offices. These all are located near the medical center or in areas where we can support the medical center. All of our urgent care offices have SAPO primary care offices at that location: A good way to get newer physicians busy is to have primary care offices in the same building as the urgent care.
And that leads us to the third accomplishment I’m very proud of, being able to help St. Anthony’s Medical Center as a whole.
Health care reform increasingly is focusing on preventive care. What opportunities and challenges does the shift to preventive care in general create for the practices of SAPO as we look to a new future in health care?
SAPO has done a great job of focusing on preventive care. No matter what comes out of Washington, D.C., preventive care and diagnosing illnesses quickly is key to high-quality medical care.
Can you elaborate on the grant SAPO received recently from the Missouri Foundation for Health for a patient centered medical home model, or a system of care in which a primary care physician works with patients, families and other health care professionals to identify and access needed medical and nonmedical service? When and how will the grant be put into practice?
It’s very exciting. There are five primary care locations within SAPO that initially are going to participate: we are one of the inaugural groups to do this in Missouri. The idea is to promote the best primary care practices to focus on preventive services, to have great access for patients to be seen, and to have great communications with patients and their families. I think the future of primary care is going to be offices and groups that can do that. By later in 2012, it should all be up and running.