Five Questions With: Dr. Steven Lampert

As president of Lifespan Physician Group, Dr. Steven Lampert leads more than 700 health care providers across Rhode Island. Lampert, a longtime cardiologist and health care administrator in Massachusetts, came to Rhode Island in 2016 to head the group.

He is able to maintain his clinical skills by precepting Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute fellows in the East Providence outpatient clinic once a week.

Lampert discusses health care growth, current challenges and future expectations for the physician’s group.  

PBN: What is the fastest growing field that you are seeing among the specialties represented in Lifespan Physicians Group? 

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LAMPERT: Lifespan Physician Group is a multi-specialty group practice with over 20 medical and surgical specialties. Over the past 2 ½ years we have grown from 800 to over 1,050 employees and now employ over 700 providers.  Strategically, we are growing our primary care services with both internists and family practitioners. Additionally, as the employed physician group at Lifespan, we are committed to hiring providers in service lines that are critical to our hospitals. We have increased our providers in cardiology, neurosurgery, and gastroenterology.

PBN: What are some of the biggest challenges that Lifespan Physicians Group is facing today?

LAMPERT: One challenge is innovating and improving the care we provide in a reimbursement system that remains predominately fee-for-service. The government, within Medicare, and insurance companies are pushing health systems and providers into reimbursement models that encourage quality while reducing the overall cost of care.  It provides an incentive for providing the right amount of care consistent with the patient’s values and wishes. In comparison, fee-for-service medicine, the most common type of reimbursement, encourages higher utilization of medical services.  Balancing these two competing incentives is challenging. Another challenge includes recruiting providers to Rhode Island due to salaries that are among the lowest in the nation, malpractice settlements that are extraordinarily high resulting in higher malpractice costs, and drug costs that do not show signs of slowing down.

PBN: As preventative measures for all ages gain popularity, how do you see health care changing to meet the needs of a more health-conscious public? 

LAMPERT: In the past, wellness from the patient’s perspective meant joining a health club or a weight reduction program or perhaps a stress reduction program.  We would measure blood pressure, weight and some laboratory tests and either declare victory with the patient or encourage them to “try a bit more.” The future looks very different because patients and physicians can now easily monitor activity level such as daily steps, and fitness level, such as resting heart rate or sleep patterns, thanks to wearables and mobile phones.  The new iPhone can detect a common and important arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation, in patients before they become symptomatic. We can expect increasingly sophisticated wearables that will help physicians improve the health of their patients.

Telehealth is another major trend. We are developing ways to provide health care advice and care using virtual visits and other innovative processes. Already, at our Lifespan and LPG primary care practices, we have installed cameras that scan a diabetic patient’s retina to check for early signs of retinopathy. The image is sent to the LPG Ophthalmology Department where the scan is read and notice placed in the patient’s chart if further care is needed. This will eliminate the need for our patients going to another office for a screening test

PBN: Does the network created by Lifespan Physician Group represent a financial benefit to patients? 

LAMPERT: Yes. The benefit to our patients is based on our technology and philosophy. All LPG doctors provide care using a common electronic medical record. This has numerous financial benefits to patients. Having this information available to all providers reduces unnecessary testing and visits. We are also developing ways of providing electronic consultations as a way of reducing unnecessary specialty visits for simple problems. We endorse the Choosing Wisely campaign, specifically a set of questions patients and providers should discuss in determining what tests and services are necessary. This should reduce direct patient costs, but more importantly it will contribute to reducing the total cost of care, which is more of a societal benefit.

PBN: How do you think Lifespan Physician Group will grow over the next 10 years?

LAMPERT: I think we will grow by acquisition of existing groups and building new practices in specific specialties, most likely primary care. Lifespan Physician Group is a physician-led and physician governed group practice. We are developing a group practice that encourages the voice of the physician on major matters, allows autonomy whenever possible yet is driving to increasing levels of consistency, quality, safety and operational efficiency. As an integral part of Lifespan, we enjoy that stability that the largest health care system in RI can provide. I think this is an attractive package for any existing group and the right foundation for developing new practices.

Elizabeth Graham is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Graham@PBN.com.