Birmingham-based medical group American Family Care (AFC) recently announced the appointment of Dr. LouAnne Giangreco as their new chief medical officer (CMO).

AFC was founded in 1982 by Birmingham doctor Bruce Irwin as a healthcare organization that aims to decrease emergency room overcrowding with easy access to both urgent and primary care according to their website.

Giangreco comes to Birmingham with more than a decade of CMO and emergency medicine experience in the northeastern area of the U.S., leaving her former role as senior medical director at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

In this week’s Q&A Giangreco said she plans to use her experience in other metros to ensure equal access to quality healthcare for people who live outside of Birmingham’s city center.

So, what are the responsibilities of a chief medical officer?

So, we’re really responsible, primarily, for the quality and safety of the organization. In looking at our policies and procedures, and how we work with our teams, is really fundamental to ensuring that we deliver great quality safely to our patients. So that’s one of my first and foremost responsibilities. And I want to make sure that I’m delivering care at all of our locations in a way that I would want for my friends and family, as well, to really meet people where they’re at with their condition.

The other responsibilities that I have is making sure that our providers who are physicians, or nurse practitioners, or physician’s assistants are well supported and have the tools and resources to be successful. My job is to help take care of the people that take care of the people. And I want to ensure they have what they need for each encounter that they have, with a patient within our clinics.

And I have a role in ensuring that I’m connecting with our medical community. That I’m connecting with the community as a whole, that I’m looking at how we connect with a broader healthcare system too to make sure that we’re meeting the needs, and that we’re part of the solution to improve the health and well-being of our communities.

What do you hope to accomplish within this role during your time at AFC?

So, I want to ensure that our teams feel well supported in taking care of patients and continue to build upon the great legacy that Dr. Irwin (founder of AFC) started in caring for patients in a kind and caring, respectful manner in a way that’s economical, and also delivers the highest quality of care available.

I also am very excited by what American Family Care offers in terms of being an urgent care center that also offers accessible primary care as well. We have so many opportunities to be able to meet people on the journey for their chronic illnesses as well as their wellness care. And so, I’m really excited to continue to build our programs and to be able to support our communities in that.

And we all spend a lot of time at work, how can we best support employers as well in keeping people happy and healthy at work? And, you know, within their personal lives as well, so I’m excited to be able to ensure that we’re doing that.

So, I know you’ve just recently moved to the Birmingham area, but from your years of experience what would you say are some of the challenges people face getting access to healthcare in places like Birmingham?

So, you know, I’m getting to still know the Birmingham community. I think it’s really important to first understand the voice of those we care for. And I think it’s really important, as me coming in from outside of Birmingham to understand that, too. So, I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about that.

Just in general, I’ve had the opportunity to work in more rural, suburban, and urban areas, too. And how do we work across all those different locations to make sure that we’re meeting the unique needs for access and availability to great care? Whether you’re downtown or out in one of our surrounding communities, to be able to provide that support. So, I think that’s one of the unique challenges that exists here. But again, I want to make sure that I’m really getting out there and understanding the unique needs of Birmingham.

And similar to everywhere, emergency room overcrowding at UAB has been a really big issue here the last few years. Do you think AFC and centers like it are part of a permanent solution for that issue?

Yeah, I do, I think, you know, as we think about helping to support emergency departments of really being there to focus on emergencies. How can clinics like American Family Care help with urgent situations that don’t necessarily need to be in the emergency department? That we’re able to provide that care and support in an environment that’s convenient and close to home. So, I do think that’s critical.

Also, as we think about how emergency departments have been safety nets for the community in the past too, again, the importance of accessible primary care too. So, if we can help individuals with their chronic illnesses before they become emergencies, so that we can help prevent illnesses that can become emergencies, I think that’s really critical. And so, I think we serve a role from that respect as well.

Have you considered utilizing community healthcare worker programs in Birmingham as a possible resource for meeting people where they’re at health wise?

In my past I have, from a population health standpoint. From a health system standpoint working at plans of how we can use community health workers, to meet people where they’re at with their health needs and support them more holistically from a biopsychosocial perspective.

I think there are further opportunities that American Family Care in looking at population health, and how do we best support that and really see our patients have what they need holistically for their direct medical needs. But then as individuals who have social determinants of health needs and how can we best support those individuals using the potential for other members of the healthcare team to be able to support people in their health care journey to eating well, to moving, to managing stress in behavioral health? So, I think that towards the future, I think American Family Care is really well poised to help support population health as a whole.

So healthcare is always innovating and changing, and I feel like we’ve especially seen a lot of shifts post-COVID. What are some changes in healthcare people might anticipate over the next few years?

We learned over COVID so much about telehealth, and what we were able to do over telehealth. And some of the utilization of telehealth has diminished, post COVID. But some has continued in some areas.

So, I think as we think about, again, how do we deliver really convenient high quality health care? I think looking at how we can combine digital health and telehealth to be able to support in person care, and what we can deliver from that perspective. I think finding that great balance and doing it in a way that’s friendly and convenient, is really the future of healthcare.

So, I’m really looking forward to as we think about the bigger healthcare system, how do we deliver a great virtual experience as well as in person experience?


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