Making lives better: A conversation with Amy Compton-Phillips
[3 MIN READ | 40 MIN WATCH]
In this conversation, Sanjula Jain, Ph.D., co-founder of Think Medium, sat down with Amy Compton-Phillips, M.D., Chief Clinical Officer at Providence to learn about her journey as a healthcare leader.
Amy has had a very storied career as a clinician. A self-proclaimed accidental leader, Amy’s journey is an inspiration for women and clinicians in general. She’s manically committed to patient-centered care and sharing how clinicians can better use data to improve the quality of care for all patients.
You can watch the full conversation (40 minutes) directly below or scroll down for some of the key points of the conversation.
Note: The Q&As below are paraphrased from the conversation
Q: How did you make the tradeoffs from treating patients to taking on more of an administrative leadership role?
Amy: The reason I went into medicine was to make lives better. I started as a front-line physician then was asked to set up medical programs. About this time, I had my first child and started to feel overwhelmed; I had to give up something. I started seeing patients half-time but got pulled back into administrative tasks. It’s been an iterative process between touching patients directly and the administration of medicine.
“There’s something that is so intrinsically rewarding about touching patients…it was a really hard thing for me to let go of."
Q: At Providence you’ve been leading transformative change. Your team led the response for the first COVID patient. Talk to us about that experience.
Amy: We knew the virus was circulating in China and when we got a patient who recently returned from China we were prepared. We immediately put our contingency plans in place because we knew this was going to be big. We took a human-centered approach and quickly built a chatbot with the help of Microsoft that helped answer questions people had about COVID. We transitioned caregivers to virtual care, and we went from 70,000 telehealth visits in 2019 to about 2 million in 2020. All in all, our preparations enabled us to maintain continuity of care.
Q: What do you envision for the post-pandemic health system?
Amy: In every crisis there’s opportunity to learn. Before the pandemic we were on a trajectory where healthcare was too expensive, poorly distributed, and resulted in health inequities across communities [which were] made very visible in 2020. We now have an opportunity to be very intentional to ensure health equity by making primary care accessible for all while making healthcare more affordable. We can set up the systems to provide better care at lower cost through distributed access points. Telehealth is never going back in the tube…the toothpaste is out…so we can make telehealth part of the normal way we deliver care. We need fantastic clinicians providing patient-centric care to all communities in order to improve the health of the nation holistically.
“Leading is being willing to say and do the hard things that allow us to move forward in a different way.”
Q: What was your first leadership success?
Amy: Because I was willing to speak up and say something, I found myself taking the lead in a variety of contexts. One of the most memorable was a trip to California for my organization, and at the end of the eight-hour presentation, , = around all these senior leaders, I said ‘this is great information, but you could have emailed this to me and saved me a trip.’ I thought they were going to fire me, but about a week later I got a call and was asked to take on another big role. I got the opportunity because I was willing to say something.
Q: Was your leadership path different because you are a woman?
Amy: I was one of very few women around in clinical leadership when I started. I wasn’t the first, but I never really felt like “one of the guys.” A lot of the work I’ve done was in the hallways, and all my colleagues seemed to be tall men, and when I talked, they didn’t hear me, so I started wearing taller shoes so I could be eye-to-eye with my tall male colleagues. It worked. Sometimes you need to pull out the tall shoes.
Q: What’s been the most difficult tradeoff you’ve had to make in your life – professionally or personally?
Amy: I feel incredibly lucky, so my most difficult decision can’t compare to many of my colleagues. I’ve been married for 32-years and we are still best friends, and we’ve had to make personal tradeoffs to balance careers with taking care of the kids. It’s really about finding a balance in relationships.
Q: What quality do you feel gives you an edge?
Amy: It’s really resilience. To me, focusing on the problems and finding solutions for patients is what builds resilience.