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ATLAS Pathfinders: Spotlight on J.D. Whitlock of Mercy Health

ATLAS Pathfinders

In the weeks leading up to our second annual ATLAS event, we will feature patient access and experience-related posts from some of the thought leaders and contributors to this year's content. 

JD Whitlock - Mercy Health

This week, we spotlight J.D. Whitlock, Vice President of Clinical & Business Intelligence at Mercy Health, a $4B Integrated Delivery System headquartered in Cincinnati.

At Mercy, J.D. provides strategic and technical direction for Mercy Health’s Population Health analytics, EHR analytics, and Enterprise Data Warehousing initiatives. Previously he worked in the Military Health System in a variety of roles: both operational & technical, provider & health plan, domestic & overseas. He holds a Masters of Public Health from UCLA, and an MBA in Management of Information Systems from the University of Georgia.

During his session, J.D. will address the perceived need for a better access strategy at Mercy health, and the culture, processes, and technologies that are required to make better patient experience a part of everyday operations.

In the meantime, we asked J.D. 10 questions about patient access, the state of health system operations, and himself. Here's what he had to say: 

1. How do you define patient access at your organization?

We look at CG-CAHPS access scores for all employed providers, but most of the focus is on our PCPs, where we have reporting that looks at: Avg 3rd next available; Visits per day; Slots restricted; % no show; Getting high-risk recently discharged patients into their PCP; and the new 2014 PCMH standards.

2. Why is patient access important to you?

Because of all the disruptive innovation around primary care access.  If we do not deliver good access, patients will go elsewhere.

3. In your opinion, what is the most important measure of patient access that organizations should be tracking?

I like the CG-CAHPS access measure.  A practice may look good on 3rd next available, but if they have lousy patient satisfaction for access because they are failing to meet patient access needs in other ways, what good is that?

4. What has been the most significant accomplishment with regards to improving patient access at your organization?

I’d give us points for being organized and committed in terms of how we are approaching the problem, but this effort is relatively recent, and in terms of outcomes there is not much worth bragging about yet.  Our CG-CAHPS access score (ACO-1) is just below the average compared to all other MSSPs.

5. What is the biggest challenge that organizations face when optimizing for access?

Nothing that others haven't faced – it's the usual drill of change management in a large complex organization with entrenched business practices.

6. What are your near and long-term goals for patient access?

Near term is to standardize and open PCP schedules for our employed PCPs, and implement ProviderMatch Enterprise and ProviderMatch Consumer for all of our CIN providers.  Long term is to increase our health plan and ACO membership based on our reputation for great access (along with the rest of the Triple Aim).

7. What about your job inspires you every day?

Getting to work on the transition to Value Based Care at a large provider organization that walks the talk on our faith based mission.

8. What excites you about the future of healthcare?

The speed at which CMS is moving towards Value Based Care, and the bipartisan support for VBC from a Congress that cannot agree on anything else.

9. What makes your health system stand out?

For the 2014 MSSP performance year, we had the 10th largest savings out of 333 MSSPs.  This is mostly because we have such a large MSSP with 75K attributed patients – but we’ll take it any way we can get it.  

10. Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I used to drive a hydrofoil around the Caribbean for a living.


Like so many initiatives in healthcare, patient access resists a simple definition. It is a complex problem set with multiple points of leverage, risk, and opportunity. At the end of the day, however, it boils down to this: patients must be able to access the care they need, when they need it.

The second Annual Thought Leadership on Access Symposium (ATLAS) will examine every aspect of patient access and experience - from the clinical and cultural, to the operational and technical - and will give attendees a chance to sit side-by-side with their peers to learn strategies and best practices from some of the country's leading health organizations. Whether you are an executive, director, manager, or operator, you will walk away from ATLAS 2015 with a playbook that will give you the tools to take your organization to the next level of access and patient experience.  

Visit to learn more, view the agenda, receive future information, and register for ATLAS 2015 October 27th & 28th in the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common, Boston, MA.

Not finding what you need? Feel free to email with any questions.

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Topics: ATLAS Conference