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    Ryan Reaves
    Ryan Reaves

    In the most recent episode of the MGMA Insights Podcast, host Daniel Williams welcomed Eric Schwab, chief operating officer at Preferred Primary Care Physicians, Inc., an independent practice in the Pittsburgh, Pa. area. This episode explores Schwab's path into healthcare management, his organization's strategic transition to value-based care, and, most notably, his commitment to mentoring healthcare managers.

    [Editor's note: These discussions with MGMA members offer valuable insights and problem-solving strategies for medical practice leaders and MGMA members. Contact Daniel Williams at to share your healthcare story.]

    From Real Estate to Healthcare

    Eric Schwab started his professional journey in the real estate title and appraisal sector. "I had an internship at a title company and worked my way into supervisory positions for quite some time,” he says. “But at the end of the day, I felt like it was more of a job than a calling." When he began looking for a career change, healthcare made sense. Already having family members in the industry, he found what he called a lucky break when he answered a job opening for a practice administrator for a surgery group, which intentionally sought someone without a healthcare background.  

    The Growth of Preferred Primary Care Physicians

    Preferred Primary Care Physicians, Inc., where Schwab serves as COO, is western Pennsylvania's largest independent provider group. Established in 1995 by seven doctors, the organization has expanded to include 90 providers and 350 clinical and clerical staff across 25 locations. "We are fiercely independent," Schwab says, highlighting the group's autonomy and commitment to maintaining their independent status in a healthcare landscape dominated by two healthcare giants in the Pittsburgh area. The growth and success of Preferred Primary Care Physicians underscores the importance of maintaining independence and autonomy in healthcare. For medical practice leaders, this serves as a reminder of the potential benefits of remaining independent, including the ability to make decisions that are best for your patients and staff without external pressures. Schwab's experience also illustrates the value of economies of scale and collaboration among independent providers to achieve shared goals.

    Embracing Value-Based Care

    Preferred Primary Care Physicians made a strategic shift from volume-based to value-based care in recent years. The shift to value-based care presents numerous challenges and significant opportunities for improving patient care and reducing costs. For medical practice leaders, investing in the necessary infrastructure and data analytics to support this transition is essential. Schwab's experience highlights the importance of a strategic approach to value-based care, focusing on data and human resources to achieve the best outcomes.

    Building a Strong Organizational Culture

    Schwab also touched on the cultural aspects of managing a large, independent practice, describing the organization's approach as being like a family. "Our physicians all own a piece of the practice ... We really take care of our employees," he adds. Maintaining a solid organizational culture is crucial for the success and stability of a medical practice. Schwab's emphasis on treating employees like family and avoiding layoffs during challenging times such as the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of employee engagement and retention. For medical practice leaders, fostering a supportive and inclusive culture can increase job satisfaction and staff loyalty, improving patient care.

    Mentoring Healthcare Managers

    Mentorship and leadership development are critical areas of focus for Schwab. He observed that many healthcare managers are promoted from clinical roles and may need more formal leadership training. "I really wanted to work with these managers to help them get more comfortable in that aspect," Schwab adds. He emphasized the importance of supporting managers in navigating new responsibilities, encouraging them to learn from their experiences and grow into their roles. Schwab's commitment to mentoring healthcare managers highlights the need for ongoing professional development and support. For medical practice leaders, investing in leadership training and mentorship programs can help cultivate a pipeline of capable leaders prepared to take on greater responsibilities and drive the organization forward.

    The Role of Education and Certifications

    Schwab earned his MBA while juggling a demanding job and raising two toddlers. He also pursued MGMA certifications, which he credits to enhancing his understanding of the industry. "Becoming a CMPE was another door opener," he stated, advocating for continuous learning and professional growth within the healthcare management field. Continuing education and certification programs are invaluable resources for healthcare managers looking to advance their careers. Schwab’s experience demonstrates the benefits of pursuing advanced degrees and professional certifications, which can open doors to new opportunities and enhance expertise. For medical practice leaders, encouraging and supporting staff in their educational pursuits can lead to a more knowledgeable and effective management team.

    Achieving Work-Life Balance

    Schwab shares insights from his personal experience regarding work-life balance. Acknowledging the 24/7 nature of healthcare, he suggests that medical practice leaders and their teams can effectively manage the demands of their positions by setting personal boundaries and implementing proactive strategies rather than reactive ones. Schwab also highlighted that prioritizing self-care and making time for oneself is crucial to avoid burnout and exhaustion.


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    Ryan Reaves

    Written By

    Ryan Reaves

    Ryan Reaves is content coordinator at MGMA. He is a seasoned content professional with a background in both community journalism and sports apparel eCommerce. Ryan is skilled in proofreading, image editing, and writing online content in a fast-paced environment. At MGMA, Ryan develops and edits content for books, podcasts and consulting.

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