Menzies tells Oregon Business he will fight to maintain the organization’s independence
Patrick Menzies will step into a new role as the Portland Clinic’s chief executive officer in mid-July following the retirement of Dick Clark, who served as CEO of the clinic for seven years and retired June 23.
Menzies comes to Portland from the Boulder Medical Center, where he served as CEO. Menzies, whose father was an Army drill sergeant, served for 11 years in the U.S. Navy, where much of his work focused on information technology. His first civilian jobs involved designing IT systems for hospitals and health organizations, before he began working in strategy and development. Before working at Boulder Medical Center, Menzies served as chief operating officer of Jefferson City Medical Group in Missouri and at Centura Health in Colorado.
In June Oregon Business spoke with Menzies about his background and aspirations for his role at the 101-year-old Portland Clinic, which has six locations throughout the metro area and serves more than 90,000 patients per year.
This interview has been edited for space and clarity.
What got you interested in the Portland Clinic?
I’ve been to Portland quite a few times through conventions and connections — probably a dozen, maybe 15, 18 over the years. My oldest son, Tyler, also went to school at [now-defunct] Concordia there in Portland, and so did my now daughter-in-law, so we had the opportunity to spend more and more time in Portland. We have found Portland to be just an incredibly fun city with lots of things to do. It has access to the water, and as you can imagine, as a former Navy guy, I liked that aspect as well. The community is very, very attractive for myself and my wife.
The other reason I liked the Portland Clinic is it is an independent physician group, which has a strong interest point for me. My history — Jefferson City Medical Group, Boulder Medical Center and now the Portland Clinic — is with independent physician groups. It’s something that I’m very, very passionate about. I think it’s critically important to the health care landscape today and moving forward, so I’m very excited about joining this group.
This has been a really challenging couple of years for everybody, but particularly in health care. What has your experience of the pandemic been professionally?
There are a couple of different dimensions. The first dimension is people; it’s one of the areas that I look at first. I really began to understand the implications of such a pandemic on the staff, on patients, on the chain to workflow on the change of patient care. None of us had ever gone through it. So we didn’t know what it was going to do as far as impacting our business, and therefore, we had to plan for the worst — that means planning for layoffs and all those kinds of things. We didn’t lay off anyone at Boulder Medical Center; we really got creative with our staff to find solutions that met their needs as well.
On the patient side, it was really challenging because health care tends to see a number of elderly folks who like to see their doctor in person. We saw a shift over to telehealth, as many organizations did, and that changed the dynamic between the physician and the patient, not necessarily entirely for the better. It’s good to be back in a place where we can actually see our patients in person.
What are some of the challenges that you foresee in your new position?
There’s a lot of consolidation going on across the country, with acquisition of practices and health systems and large organizations like UnitedHealthcare. I want to make sure that I work as hard as possible to ensure that the Portland Clinic remains independent and stands on a strong foundation, as an organization and financially, so that it can really focus on the high-quality care that it wants to provide that corporations might have a different lens into. Physicians owning the care that they provide to the patients is really important to me. It’s really important to the organization, to providers and patients.
What are some of the opportunities that you foresee?
I think most of the opportunities in the near term are about relationships. There are a lot of things going on with independent groups coming together, and at least having a basis to talk with each other — as well as relationships and clinically integrated network with health system. The additional piece of that would be connectivity via the EMR to make sure that we’re sharing information on all of our patients with all the relevant providers in the community network. I think relationships between the different providers’ segments inside of Portland and the community is going to be really important to begin to understand how to navigate forward.
You mentioned that there’s a trend toward consolidation in health care. What do you think is driving that trend?
There are a couple of things: The first thing is cost of health care and the cost of operations and the uncertainty of that. For example, EMRs are very expensive, and some practices spend a lot of money on them. And there’s a big push toward Epic, which is a national direction, but I think the cost of EMR is the uncertainty in insurance contracts. The smaller independent practices find it difficult to contract on par with a larger health system and think maybe moving over to a health system would offer them more stability or contracting and then systems of care. There are also quality metrics and quality programs that we’re now expected to perform to. Sometimes that can be very, very difficult in the way of increased resources, as well as workload on the providers and the staff. That’s one thing that’s really impacting the landscape as well.
How can an independent organization like the Portland Clinic resist that and stay independent?
The first thing is making sure that the organization is financially sound, making sure that the organization is culturally sound, making sure that we’re taking care of our own staff, as well as our patients. The Portland Clinic is very well positioned for the EMR perspective, because they are on Epic and Neuron, their own instance of Epic. So that push toward integration with Epic or moving on to Epic through health systems is not there as well. I also understand that the Portland Clinic has a strong contracting relationship, or some relationship with contracts with the private payers. That’s a second piece of this: I think I understand that to be very, very strong, well balanced. Between the ethics and the contracting piece, and the organization being financially and organizationally sound, I think the Portland Clinic is in a very good position to remain independent.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I like to do DIY projects. I just put siding on my own house while I was off. In Colorado there’s skiing, but I don’t do too much of that as I get older. I like to be outside and I like to bike and I like to hike — just really anything outside.