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Title: Chief Operating OfficerCompany: Mercy ClinicEducation: Bachelor’s in business administration, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa; master’s in health administration, St. Mary’s College, Rochester, Minn.; and master’s in business administration, Missouri State UniversityNational impact: Sorensen has been named to the executive committee of the board of directors of the American Medical Group Association, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, for a three-year term starting in 2012.Contact: donn.sorensen@mercy.net
Title: Chief Operating Officer
Company: Mercy Clinic
Education: Bachelor’s in business administration, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa; master’s in health administration, St. Mary’s College, Rochester, Minn.; and master’s in business administration, Missouri State University
National impact: Sorensen has been named to the executive committee of the board of directors of the American Medical Group Association, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, for a three-year term starting in 2012.
Contact: donn.sorensen@mercy.net

A Conversation With ... Donn Sorensen

Posted online
What is your role as chief operating officer at Mercy Clinic?
I’m the senior executive leader over all of Mercy Clinic operations for Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri. We have about 1,500 physicians and 500 locations throughout those four states. … We believe that health care is local, regional and virtual, so I try … to bring that to life. We believe the highest quality health care should be provided locally and try to bolster up services where we can in each community and provide the populations the health care they need.

The regional piece is where it makes the most sense – from a quality standpoint first and a cost-effective standpoint second – to provide services in a regional fashion. Maybe not every community should have a heart program or a neurosurgical program, so we centralize those services (and) clinically integrate communities that don’t have them, so they can access those higher tertiary services.

The virtual piece is the part that we’re exploring and (expanding) as fast as we can. That is telemedicine, where we can, through video, link communities up with our specialists.

I have an office in Springfield and an office in St. Louis, and then I travel to all of our locations.

You joined the American Medical Group Association board in January 2009. How will serving on the board’s executive committee change your involvement with the group?
Most of that involvement will be around the leadership of the board (and) AMGA.

There will be more frequent meetings, more involvement with the day-to-day activities (and) considerably more travel. Health care reform and what’s going on in Washington is front and center, and AMGA has a key role with lawmakers and (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) on shaping reform, and my involvement will be at a higher level and closer (to) the lawmakers.

So health reform continues to be the primary issue AMGA is dealing with on behalf of its members?
Unfortunately, it is. AMGA has probably the biggest voice relative to language writing, specifically as it pertains to some of the accountable care language that is being worked through (from a) regulatory (and) legislative (angle). We had high hopes a year and a half ago when the bill was passed, but when it comes out in regulation, it’s not meeting the needs that we all have.

We still remain extremely active and visible on Capitol Hill and with CMS, trying to make some meaningful change.

Mercy and St. John’s have been recognized for integrated delivery of health care, which has been identified as a priority for AMGA and a key to health reform. Why is integration important?
There have been great strides nationally to demonstrate that integrated care does, in fact, drive costs down and quality up, with the Dartmouth study being one notable study that showed … that in the cities that had the most integrated health care, costs were far less to the consumer than in nonintegrated cities.

Second, the CMS (Physician Group Practice) project – St. John’s is one of 10 members – has clearly shown in the last five years that integration and proper incentives saves a great deal of costs and drives quality higher. We truly believe integration is the answer to the nation’s health care challenges.

How does your experience with integration at Mercy help you serve AMGA?
It (entails) bringing our experience forward and being able to describe ... the successes we’ve had. And it’s not just (Mercy). Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, all of those very reputable integrated delivery systems are key members of AMGA. All of our voices are united … to say, “This is the way to do it,” or “It’s a clear way to do it,” and more importantly, to our lawmakers and regulation writers to help formulate a health care package that (promotes) the delivery of health care in a manner that is consistent with integration.
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